Issue Date: January 1, 2007
Novartis Honors Evans With Endowment
To honor the synthetic and educational achievements of Harvard University chemistry professor David A. Evans, Novartis last month gave the university a $2 million endowment to support graduate education in organic chemistry.
"We hope this fund will ensure that organic chemistry continues to blossom at Harvard," explained Armin Meinzer, Novartis' global head of technical R&D. The university estimates that the endowment, which will be administered solely by the chemistry department, will support three to five graduate fellowships in organic chemistry each year.
The company announced the gift last month at a symposium featuring talks from nine of Evans' former graduate students and postdocs. "Dave's commitment to graduate education is clear from the quality of the symposium's program," said Cynthia M. Friend, chair of Harvard's chemistry department.
In establishing the endowment, Novartis wanted to pay tribute not only to Evans' efforts as a teacher and mentor but also to his practical synthetic innovations. "The pharma industry in general, and Novartis in particular, uses Evans' chemistry on an industrial scale," Meinzer said.
To illustrate the value of Evans' chemistry, Meinzer pointed to the firm's manufacturing route for discodermolide, a marine natural product now undergoing clinical evaluation for cancer. "Evans' chemistry made our synthesis possible," Meinzer said.
Novartis' gift is particularly welcome given the difficult funding climate. "Funding in organic synthesis—whether from federal or industry sources—is a growing concern in academia," said Scott A. Biller, Novartis' global head of discovery chemistry and one of Evans' former graduate students. "This is an investment in good students we may want to hire someday."
"Funding is so fickle and so scarce right now," agreed Amir Hoveyda, chair of Boston College's chemistry department and a former postdoc in the Evans lab. Novartis' endowment cements the firm's financial support for graduate education at Harvard for years to come, he added. "This is a fantastic thing they have done. We need more of it."
Evans, who was feted with a standing ovation at the close of the daylong symposium, expressed gratitude for both Novartis' gift and his former students' presence. "Novartis' gift will help future generations of young folks continue in the great tradition of organic synthesis in our department," he said.
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