Fred Eshelman ’72, who previously donated $38 million to the UNC pharmacy school that now bears his name, on Wednesday pledged $100 million more to the school — the largest gift from an individual ever to Carolina and, the University says, the largest ever to a pharmacy school in the U.S.
Eshelman is founder and former CEO of Pharmaceutical Product Development and founding chair of Furiex Pharmaceuticals. The school that granted his degree was named the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy in 2008.
The money will be used to create a center within the school named the Eshelman Institute for Innovation. Through strategic collaborations inside and outside the University, the institute will help fuel innovation, create jobs and spur economic development in the state, while enabling the school to pursue new ways to enhance its position as a national and international leader.
By providing faculty with new resources to engage in timely, opportunistic research, education and practice, Carolina will drive innovation across the University and into society. It further advances Carolina’s vision of a 21st-century public research university with a focus on discovery and entrepreneurship.
“Collaborative public-private investments like this new institute will drive the future of innovation at Carolina, and we cannot thank Dr. Eshelman enough for his continued support of the school’s leadership and of the leaders of tomorrow we are producing,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “Thanks to Dr. Eshelman’s vision and generosity, we can pursue three critical components of the University’s overarching mission: to continue to attract the very best faculty and students from around the world who have a passion to innovate; to fuel economic development arising from their discoveries in an exciting learning environment; and to educate the next generation of leaders to be innovative and competitive.”
Robert Blouin, dean of the pharmacy school, said: “Dr. Eshelman has always encouraged us to take risks, and the Eshelman Institute for Innovation provides us with the ability to pursue high-risk, high-reward ideas with partners on campus and to push those ideas out into the world as advancements in education, pharmacy practice and health care. Pharmacy school faculty consistently and successfully join forces with colleagues from the School of Medicine, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and the College of Arts and Sciences. The Eshelman Institute for Innovation will accelerate these interdisciplinary partnerships and drive critical problem-solving across the University.”
Eshelman’s previous donations include $3 million earlier this year to support the school’s drug-discovery center; $2.5 million in 2012 for pharmacy education, pharmacy practice, research and training; $9 million for cancer research in 2008; and $20 million in 2003 for scholarships, fellowships, faculty development in teaching and research, partnership development with community pharmacists, and residency programs. Currently there are five Eshelman Distinguished Professors in the pharmacy school.
“I am inspired by the work being done by students, faculty and staff in the School of Pharmacy,” Eshelman said. “In the past 10 years, the school has generated more than 130 patents and created 15 spin-off companies. Their success demonstrates the power and the future of drug discovery in academia, and it’s a future that I am eager and proud to support.”
Eshelman’s 2003 gift was at that time the largest commitment ever to a pharmacy school in the U.S. Four years later, he contributed substantial additional support for educational initiatives and cancer research. The funding helped support new research facilities — among them UNC’s Genetic Medicine Building completed in 2008 — graduate fellowships, professorships, PharmD scholarships and unrestricted funds for new initiatives. It enabled the school to bolster three new science-based centers working to advance drug discovery, nanotechnology, drug delivery and pharmaco-genomics — and to bring in world-class leaders to direct them.
Eshelman has been a member of the school’s board of visitors for more than a decade and has lectured at the school as an adjunct faculty member. He received the GAA’s Distinguished Service Medal in 2009 and is a recipient of the William Richardson Davie Award, the University trustees’ highest honor for service.
The school is second among the nation’s pharmacy schools in total federal research funding and specifically in National Institutes of Health funding. Its doctor of pharmacy program ranked number two in U.S. News & World Report’s 2013 edition of America’s Best Graduate Schools.
The school has a history of driving innovation through unique interactions between academia and industry, producing 19 spin-off companies in the history of the school, most recently Meryx, which is developing treatments for cancer and other diseases. The school enrolls about 650 students in its professional degree program, more than 100 students in its graduate program and has more than 100 full-time faculty members.
The University considers the gift its largest ever; the Morehead-Cain Foundation, the recipient of a $100 million gift in 2007, is a private entity.