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Major Philanthropic Gift Launches New Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at The Scripps Research Institute

La Jolla, CA. May 21, 1996 -- The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has established a new institute, to be known as the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, made possible by a commitment of $100 million over 10 years from Aline W. and L.S. Skaggs through the Skaggs Institute for Research and their family foundation, The ALSAM Foundation, according to TSRI President Richard A. Lerner, M.D.

Dr. Lerner commented, "There is little question but that molecular design will transform and enhance medical treatment in the future to a much greater degree than any other contributing factor. The Skaggs' extraordinary gift to the Institute will allow our scientists to realize their full potential at the vital intersection of chemistry and biology. Having created a unique interdisciplinary team of bioorganic, synthetic and theoretical chemists, molecular and computational biologists, physicists and mathematicians, the challenge for TSRI had become how best to enhance its resources in this area to fully exploit our capabilities. The magnitude of the Skaggs' generosity will allow us to reap untold benefits as yet unimaginable. This magnificent gift will improve our ability to function at the highest possible level, thereby raising TSRI in breadth, scope and stature."

The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology will be home to a faculty comprised of some 15 newly recruited investigators as well as 15 to 20 senior researchers from TSRI's current faculty ranks. The group will work across departments and disciplines to tackle the most challenging scientific problems in the fields of molecular design and chemical synthesis, the cornerstones of rational drug design.

The head of the new Skaggs Institute is Julius Rebek, Jr., Ph.D., formerly the Camille Dreyfus Professor of Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Rebek brings strong interests in designing synthetic catalysts for biorelevant reactions and synthetic receptors for biorelevant targets. Dr. Rebek perhaps is best known for developing the "three-phase test" for reactive intermediates while at the University of California, Los Angeles. Most recently, he has investigated the new promise of combinatorial chemistry for screening small-molecule libraries.

Rational Drug Design and Combinatorial Chemistry

Rational drug design seeks to develop new compounds whose molecular structure achieves a precise fit with those molecules that are targeted within the body. Molecular drug design relies on fully understanding and mapping the three-dimensional interactions that make certain molecules bind with others at specific sites on the molecules. Drugs designed to inhibit or prevent specific cellular attachments may cure various genetic, autoimmune, viral and bacterial diseases.

While many TSRI scientists devote their inquiries into this field of study, it is not the only avenue under consideration. A recently devised strategy of "rational trial and error," known as combinatorial chemistry, has been pioneered by Dr. Lerner. This methodology unites the molecular-making talents of synthetic chemistry with the record-keeping abilities of DNA. It seeks to turn the laborious process of testing molecules one by one into a more efficient process in which tens of thousands of molecules would be created and screened en masse.

Skaggs Family's Record of Philanthopy

Since the early 1980s, the Skaggs family has provided major support for anti-cancer drug design and development activities in TSRI's Department of Chemistry and Scripps Clinic's Green Cancer Center. They have underwritten the construction of The Aline W. and L.S. Skaggs Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectroscopy Center, as well as its current expansion. They have provided the lead gift toward a planned primary care pavilion at Scripps Clinic and they have contributed significant annual support to many of TSRI's onging research activities.

Mr. Skaggs, 73, married the former Aline Wilmot in 1949, after serving four years in the U.S. Army Chemical Warfare Service in Europe during World War II. They have four children.

The family business began acquiring drug stores, and in 1950, when Mr. Skaggs' father died, 11 drug stores became the core of the Skaggs Companies, Inc. In 1965, the company had 65 drug outlets with sales of $89 million and subsequently went public.

Mr. Skaggs is credited with pioneering the first successful combination food and drug store with a common check-out. Today the company is one of the nation's leading food and drug retailers with nearly 1,600 stores in 26 states and $18.3 billion in annual sales. Some of the well-known store names that American Stores operates are Lucky, Acme, Osco, Star, Jewel, and Sav-On Drug.


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