Archive for Tuesday, May 7, 1996


May 7, 1996


Dedication of the $8.9 million Dolph Simons Biosciences Research Laboratories unites KU's cancer researchers.

Journal-World editor Dolph Simons played a central role in attracting pharmaceutical chemist Takeru Higuchi to Kansas University.

From the 1960s to 1980s, they collaborated on efforts to inspire scientific and technological excellence at the university.

Simons and Higuchi are now gone, but each man's vision of helping men and women conquer illness through pioneering research lives on.

The latter is in the Higuchi Biosciences Center, a collection of leading-edge research groups on the KU campus. The former is in the Dolph Simons Biosciences Research Laboratories, which was dedicated Monday to house scientists following in Higuchi's footsteps.

"This building allows us to bring together scientists from the four corners of the university to conduct research in the pharmaceutical and biological aspects of cancer," said Elias Michaelis, KU professor of pharmacology and director of Higuchi Biosciences Center.

"Our work here will not be just an intellectual exercise, but will have direct benefits," he said.

Rain forced about 200 people at the ceremony to squeeze into the new building's 106-seat auditorium. After dedication speeches, guests toured the $8.9 million building on West Campus near 21st and Iowa streets. The two-story laboratory was completed in November 1995.

Dolph Simons Jr., chair of KU Endowment Association's board of trustees and the Journal-World's editor and publisher, said his father had a love affair with the university that lasted more than 65 years.

"I know how proud and appreciative he would be, but at the same time I am sure he would suggest there are others far more deserving to have a building named for them than he," Simons said of his father.

He said combining federal, state and private funding to build the lab should be a model for higher education. Of the total cost, $4.9 million came from National Cancer Institute. KU contributed $2 million and private donations will pay for the rest.

"I believe it is this kind of coordinated giving from many sources ... which is apt to become increasingly important in the years to come if a university such as KU is to continue to grow in excellence," he said.

Chancellor Robert Hemenway said the facility would allow KU to produce more of the basic research that offered society hope for the future.

"It's impossible to underestimate the impact of this building on research and technology," he said.

The structure contains 22 laboratories as well as offices, meeting rooms and interaction areas. The design conforms with industrial layouts rather than those typical of universities. Labs flank central service corridors on both floors.

K.C. Nicolaou, professor of chemistry at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., said the design promoted collaboration among researchers.

"This is one of the best facilities in the country," Nicolaou said. "It allows scientists of different disciplines to interact."

Dolph Simons Sr., a 1925 graduate of the KU, was president of KU's endowment and alumni associations. He received KU's highest honor, the Distinguished Service Citation. He died in 1989.

Higuchi, who died in 1987, came to KU in 1967 from the University of Wisconsin. He was a leading figure in the history of KU and the pharmaceutical sciences. His work on formulation, modification and administration of drugs was world-renowned.

Gene Budig, president of professional baseball's American League and a former KU chancellor, worked closely with these men and was on hand at the building dedication.

"I knew both as friends and advisers," Budig said. "Dolph and Tak cared deeply about this great university and its long-term commitment to society. We are fortunate that they passed our way. We are better today because of their vision, their persistence and their character."

Research focus

Researchers at the Simons Biosciences Research Laboratory will:

Extract compounds from natural sources -- plants -- with anti-cancer properties.

Foster safe handling by scientists of toxic anti-cancer agents.

Study genes and molecular biology related to cancer.

Examine how drugs break down in the body with the aid of highly sensitive equipment.

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