LOS ANGELES, July 7, 2010 — A $2.5 million gift from Morgan and Helen Chu will establish the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean’s Chair for the Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences at City of Hope. John Rossi, Ph.D., a highly regarded leader in the field of RNA technology and dean of the graduate school, will be the first holder of the chair. The gift was announced June 11 during the graduate school’s 12th annual commencement exercises.
The gift is the latest in a series of generous contributions from the Chus and the Los Angeles-based law firm of Irella & Manella LLP, where Chu is a partner. Recent gifts include a $3 million gift from the firm to endow the Cancer Center Director’s Chair, a $5 million gift (matched by an additional $5 million) endowing and naming City of Hope’s graduate school, a $2 million gift to create a visiting professorship, and a $2.5 million contribution from Morgan and Helen Chu to endow the directorship of Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope.
Morgan Chu, J.D., Ph.D., is considered one of the most accomplished trial attorneys in the nation and a pioneer in the areas of technology and intellectual property law. The National Law Journal recently named him one of the forty "Most Influential Lawyers of the Decade" in all areas of practice. He and Helen are longtime supporters of City of Hope.
“Morgan and Helen Chu’s contribution to our graduate school further guarantees the distinction of our institution and supports our efforts to guide our students to become the next generation of scientific pioneers. We are most grateful for their foresight and generosity,” said Michael A. Friedman, M.D., City of Hope president and chief executive officer and director, City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Established in 1994, City of Hope’s Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences trains students in the fields of chemical, molecular and cellular biology as well as bioinformatics and genetics. Students have a unique opportunity to conduct translational research, collaborating with scientists and physicians to develop promising new therapies for cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Graduates of the program are awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in biological sciences. Alumni have gone on to positions at major universities, research institutions and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.
Rossi is a world-renowned expert in the therapeutic application of short pieces of genetic material called small interfering RNAs that trigger destruction of harmful RNA messages. He is currently participating in a pilot study that will be the first human trial to use small interfering RNAs in human hematopoietic stem cell-based gene therapy to treat patients with both lymphoma and HIV.
His research interests include the use of modified genetic material to fight viruses and cancer. He led the research team that helped create ribozymes, another type of RNA, that can be used to interfere with growth and replication of HIV.
In 1993, City of Hope bestowed its highest honor upon Rossi, naming him to its Gallery of Medical and Scientific Achievement for his pioneering research on HIV/AIDS. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases also recognized him with a 2002 Merit Award for his work in the field. Rossi received his doctoral training in genetics at the University of Connecticut and postdoctoral training in molecular genetics at Brown University.
“Dr. Rossi is an outstanding scholar who has provided unparalleled leadership of the graduate school. With this endowed chair, we recognize his commitment to academic excellence and training future generations of talented scientists,” said Friedman.
Chu joined Irell & Manella as an associate in 1977 and became a partner in 1982. He has been a member of its governing board since 1985. He has been an adjunct professor of law at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law. Chu is a member of the Harvard University Board of Overseers. He has been recognized as one of the “Top 10 Trial Lawyers” in the nation and named one of the "100 Most Influential Lawyers in America" by the National Law Journal every year since its 1994 survey. He earned a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. at the University of California at Los Angeles, an M.S.L. at Yale University, and his J.D. at Harvard Law School, magna cum laude.
“Graduate students are among the great assets of science. Helen and I are honored to support City of Hope’s graduate school and to support future researchers who will advance the institution’s tradition of scientific inquiry and excellence,” said Chu.