$25 million gift from Jules and Gwen Knapp will help build 10-story medical research facility at the University of Chicago

February 10, 2006

Jules and Gwen Knapp of Chicago have donated $25 million toward construction of a 330,760-square-foot, 10-story, state-of-the-art facility that will provide a new home for translational research programs in children's health, cancer, and other medical specialties at the University of Chicago.

Soon to be the tallest building on campus, the Jules and Gwen Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery will provide a focal point for researchers who work at the interface between basic science and medicine. These physician-scientists will translate the sorts of fundamental discoveries made by biologists and geneticists, as well as chemists and physicists, into better care for patients.

"We are tremendously pleased by the Knapps' extraordinary history of service and support to the University and proud that they chose to extend that history in this magnanimous and far-sighted way," said Don Michael Randel, president of the University of Chicago. "This is a gift that will have a prominent and lasting impact on our campus and on the world of medical science."

This is the Knapps' second multi-million-dollar gift to biomedical research at the University of Chicago. In 1991 they donated $10 million to establish the Gwen Knapp Center for Lupus and Immunology Research, which is housed in the Jules F. Knapp Research Center, a five-story research facility. They also support the Gwen Knapp Symposium, an annual conference for researchers interested in lupus, and the Joy Faith Knapp Memorial Lecture on autoimmune disease.

In honor of the Knapps' longstanding support for the biological sciences, the University will also name the Knapp Research Complex: a cluster of buildings including the new Jules and Gwen Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery, the Jules F. Knapp Research Center, and the Donnelley Biological Sciences Learning Center.

Jules Knapp, a prominent Chicago entrepreneur, began his business education by delivering newspapers at the age of 10. He moved on to delivering groceries when he reached 13. At 15, he became a stock boy at Marshall Fields, and at 17 he sold shoes for a major chain.

"Each of these jobs taught me something valuable," he said, "the importance of teamwork, good communication, honesty, hard work, and luck. The harder you work, the luckier you get. From your experiences, if you are honest with yourself, you can discover an ethical way to run a successful business."

In 1962, at the age of 34, he started his own paint business, United Coatings. He was one of the first paint producers to market to mass merchandisers like Wal-Mart. In 1994 United Coatings merged with Pratt and Lambert, which was purchased by Sherwin-Williams in 1996.

Knapp recently repeated his early success by purchasing Grisham Manufacturing, a maker of steel security and storm doors, in 2000. He turned the ailing company around by improving production and customer service and establishing new sales relationships with retail giants Home Depot and Lowe's.

Despite hard work and commensurate good luck, the Knapps' personal lives have been touched by tragedy. Their daughter, Joy Faith Knapp, who inherited her parents' wisdom, entrepreneurial talent and enthusiasm, suffered for many years from lupus, a poorly understood auto-immune disorder. She died in 2000 at age 37 from complications of lupus nephritis.

"We were so frustrated by the lack of knowledge about lupus," said Gwen Knapp. "We wanted to find a way fill those gaps, to learn about the disease, what causes it, who is at risk, how to treat it, and how to prevent it. Our curiosity led us the University of Chicago."

"The Knapps have applied their remarkable energy and resources--including hard work--to finding better ways to learn about complex diseases such as lupus and to use that knowledge to help others," said James Madara, MD, dean of the biological sciences and the Pritzker School of Medicine and vice president for medical affairs. "In this undertaking, their interests and our talents mesh. The Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery will exploit the unique ability of our University to gather scientists from many specialties and enable them to cross traditional boundaries to work together on common, fundamental problems."

About one-third of the building's research space will be devoted to the Institute for Molecular Pediatric Science, which will house up to 50 research teams. Physician-scientists in the Institute, known on campus as IMPS, will explore childhood diseases at the most basic level to reveal, understand, and leverage universal principles that apply to both children and adults.

One floor of the Center, about 30,000 gross square feet, will be devoted to cancer research with particular emphasis on understanding metastasis, the process by which cancers spread from the original tumor to distant sites. It will provide a new headquarters for the University of Chicago Cancer Research Center and a home for the Ludwig Center for Metastasis Research, which will focus on understanding metastasis. Another floor will house the Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology, which will provide state-of-the-art genomics technologies to support basic and translational research.

The Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery was designed by the award-winning Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership of Los Angeles, California, to provide open, efficient, and flexible spaces for laboratories and offices and to encourage contact and cooperation within each lab and between different lab groups. In addition to the research spaces, it will feature a garden courtyard, conference and lecture halls, and several multi-story public and common spaces, designed to enhance the exchange of ideas between floors.

Although most campus buildings top out at five-to-seven stories, this will be the first of several taller clinical or research structures planned for the northwest end of campus. "This is a 'plant-the-flag' building," said architect Dusty Rhoads of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca. "It sets the tone for a new precinct."

The design combines a limestone, neogothic base, reflecting the campus heritage, with the open, airy feel of glass-curtain walls higher up. To lighten the visual impact, the architects varied the shape, glass designs and textures to emphasize the building's open, translucent qualities rather than its height. The serrated west wall, for example, gives each office a view north to the central city, as well as west over Washington Park.

Construction of the building began in October of 2005 and should be complete by the spring of 2008. Total cost of the facility will be $160 million. Additional funding for the building will come from the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Fund for Cancer Research, The University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation, University resources, borrowing and an ongoing philanthropic campaign.

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