Three new endowed chairs have been established at The Jackson Laboratory in honor of President and CEO Edison Liu, M.D. PHOTO COURTESY OF JAX

JAX establishes three new endowed chairs

BAR HARBOR — New philanthropic gifts to The Jackson Laboratory have established three new endowed chairs focused on cancer research, innovation and scientific leadership. 

According to a press release from the lab, endowed chairs represent the highest accolade an organization can bestow upon a faculty or staff member. In addition to providing an important source of permanent funding for research, named endowed chairs enable recruitment, retention and support of scientists. 

“Each of these gifts was inspired by JAX’s transformational president and CEO, Ed Liu, who has raised the Laboratory’s sights for the role philanthropy can play in advancing scientific discovery,” said David Roux, chairman of the lab’s Board of Trustees. “We are grateful to the donors for their generosity and their confidence in JAX’s mission.” 


The Edison T. Liu Endowed Chair in Cancer Research 

More than 35 donors contributed over $1.5 million, which has been matched with an additional $1.5 million from The Jackson Laboratory, to establish The Edison T. Liu Endowed Chair in Cancer Research. 

On Nov. 29, after a decade of leadership, Liu will step down as president and CEO. He plans to remain at the lab as a professor where he will continue to lead the Liu Lab in studying the functional genomics of cancer, with a focus on breast cancer. Liu is an international expert in cancer biology, genomics, human genetics, molecular epidemiology and translational medicine. His scientific research has focused on uncovering new oncogenes and deciphering on a genomic scale the dynamics of gene regulation that modulate cancer biology. He has authored over 300 scientific papers and reviews and has co-authored two books. 

The Edison T. Liu Endowed Chair in Cancer Research will support a faculty position in the laboratory’s NCI-designated Cancer Center, which seeks to discover precise genomic solutions for cancer by making basic discoveries with human impact. 

“Ed Liu has had a transformational impact on both JAX, spearheading the laboratory’s historic expansion into comparative genomics, and on biomedical research, particularly through his work on the genomics of breast cancer,” said Trustee Emeritus David Elliman, who contributed to the gift that established the chair. “Establishing an endowed chair in his honor is the perfect way to honor Ed’s work as a leader and scientist, and to sustain JAX’s excellence as a leader in cancer research.” 

The David E. Shaw Family Endowed Chair for Innovation 

Additionally, David E. Shaw, chair emeritus of The Jackson Laboratory Board of Trustees, has committed $1.5 million, which will also be matched by the lab, to establish The David E. Shaw Family Endowed Chair for Innovation in honor of Liu and Kenneth “Ken” Paigen, Ph.D. (1927-2020). Paigen served as the lab’s director (the role now designated president and CEO) from 1989 to 2003. 

The David E. Shaw Family Endowed Chair for Innovation supports a leader who will provide critical guidance to the lab’s faculty members to translate their basic science innovations to human impact especially through commercialization in line with the lab’s mission. 

“My family and I wanted to do something special to show our love for JAX and in particular, to honor Ed Liu and Ken Paigen for the spirit of innovation that characterized their leadership,” said Shaw. “This chair will provide enduring support and inspiration for entrepreneurship at JAX, and we hope it will contribute significantly to future success in translating JAX’s amazing work into products and services that benefit the world.” 

The Robert Alvine Family Endowed Chair 

Robert Alvine, chair emeritus of The Jackson Laboratory Board of Trustees, has committed $1.5 million, to be matched by the lab, to establish The Robert Alvine Family Endowed Chair in honor of Liu and Auro Nair, Ph.D., executive vice-president of the lab and president of JAX® Mice, Clinical and Research Services. The gift will permanently endow the scientific leadership position in the state of Connecticut at The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington, Conn. 

Researchers at the Farmington facility focus on human genomics, complementing the laboratory’s long history of mammalian genetics expertise. Jackson Laboratory Genomic Medicine, which opened in 2014 next to the UConn Health campus, facilitates clinical collaboration with Connecticut’s many universities and hospitals. Scientists at the campus investigate aspects of human genomics and disease, including immune response, cancer genomics, the microbiome, genome structure, computational modeling and more. 

“I have great admiration for all that Ed, Auro, and the entire team at JAX have accomplished, and I am proud to have been among the first donors to provide philanthropic support for Ed Liu’s cancer research at JAX as well as for the chair named in his honor. As a Connecticut resident, I am especially proud of the impact JAX is having here in the state, so I am delighted that the Alvine Family Chair will be held by the scientific leader of JAX Genomic Medicine in Farmington,” said Alvine. 

Philanthropic momentum 

In March, The Jackson Laboratory announced the appointment of three faculty members to The Bernard and Lusia Milch Endowed Chair, The Ann Watson Symington Chair in Addiction Research and The Florine Deschenes Roux Chair for Genomics and Computational Biology to further research into Alzheimer’s disease, addiction, cancer and computational biology. These gifts build on the lab’s philanthropic momentum in 2020, which was a record-breaking year for fundraising with more than $21 million raised in support of the lab’s mission. Donors made gifts towards vision research, the Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative, COVID-19 research, STEM education and more. 

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