Pioneering molecular endocrinologist John Kopchick, Ph.D., and his wife, Charlene, of Athens, Ohio, aim to pave the way for future trailblazers through a $10.5 million gift to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
The gift will fund up to 15 student fellowships at the MD Anderson UTHealth Graduate School, where John Kopchick received his Ph.D. in 1980. It also will fund the Dr. John J. Kopchick Research Symposium as well as competitive research awards to students and their faculty mentors.
John Kopchick is a distinguished professor and The Goll-Ohio Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Ohio University, where he directs the Growth, Diabetes and Obesity Section of the Edison Biotechnology Institute in the Konneker Research Laboratories.
"It's nice to give something back," says Kopchick, who received the Rosalie B. Hite Fellowship during his time at the MD Anderson UTHealth Graduate School.
At a June signing ceremony at MD Anderson, Charlene Kopchick, Ohio University assistant dean of students for campus involvement, remarked that she and her husband are the first in their respective families to go to college and that, "had John not received scholarships to come here, we wouldn't be where we are."
“We hope that our gift will help other students in their graduate careers at the MD Anderson UTHealth Graduate School,” she says.
The Kopchick fellowships and research symposium will nurture students and faculty "of the highest caliber," says Ethan Dmitrovsky, M.D., professor, Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology.
We're grateful to Charlene and John Kopchick for their generosity, vision and support. Their legacy gift advances our collective goal to help the next generation of biomedical scientists realize their potential in making a global impact on eradicating diseases around the world.
Two UT System institutions working together
The MD Anderson UTHealth Graduate School is a partnership between MD Anderson and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). Established in 1963, the Graduate School has trained more than 2,600 biomedical scientists. Its more than 600 faculty members come from both MD Anderson and UTHealth.
The Kopchicks’ gift represents “the important role that collaborations between two UT institutions will play in advancing discoveries and cures,” says The University of Texas System Chancellor William H. McRaven.
“When you combine the expertise that exists in the nation’s leading cancer center and the state’s most comprehensive academic health institution, graduate students in the biomedical sciences will have unprecedented opportunity for learning and discovery,” he says.
We are profoundly grateful to the Kopchicks for generously supporting the power of collaborative science.
Growth hormone research continues
Kopchick was recruited to the Graduate School by his mentor and academic adviser Ralph Arlinghaus, Ph.D., retired professor of Translational Molecular Pathology at MD Anderson.
“Ralph and his research group were great,” says Kopchick. “I base my current research group on things I learned in Ralph’s laboratory - work hard and play hard.”
Kopchick's research centers on the molecular structure of a growth hormone, a protein produced in the pituitary gland. Tumors and genetic mutations in the gland can alter production of this hormone - too much can lead to acromegaly or gigantism, too little may lead to dwarfism.
Kopchick's research led to the drug SOMAVERT® (pegvisomant), which the Food and Drug Administration approved in 2003 to treat patients with acromegaly. Kopchick, who believes the drug may have other applications including cancer treatment, has established a research project with MD Anderson’s Ahmed Kaseb, M.D., associate professor, Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology, and Hesham Amin, M.D., professor, Hematopathology, to determine whether inhibiting growth hormone action will affect tumor growth.