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Philip Morris gives UVa $25 million

By Seth Rosen

srosen@dailyprogress.com | 978-7245

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The University of Virginia has received $25 million from cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris USA to bolster research aimed at preventing youth smoking and identifying the basis of cigarette addiction.

The donation is the largest corporate gift the university has received since kicking off its $3 billion fundraising campaign.

Approximately $20 million of the funding will go to the School of Medicine to support projects that seek to develop a better understanding of the causes of addiction. Additionally, the gift will be used to enhance ongoing research into helping people to quit smoking and reducing the harm of cigarettes.

The remaining $5 million will supplement McIntire School of Commerce programs, including a joint one with the School of Medicine to develop an anti-smoking marketing campaign geared toward youth.

“This donation makes possible an exciting collaboration in scientific research to promote public health and excellence in business education,” said Gordon Rainey, national chairman of UVa’s fundraising campaign.

Richmond-based Philip Morris previously gave $2.3 million to the university to expand programs at the School of Law and the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, among others.

“When the university approached us to ask for support for this campaign, I realized we had the opportunity to bring together the resources of two leading Virginia institutions … to try to solve some of the complex problems related to smoking,” Philip Morris CEO Mike Szymanczyk said during Friday’s announcement of the gift in the Dome Room of the Rotunda.

The donation is crucial to furthering scientific study of the physiological origins of cigarette addiction, university officials said.

UVa researchers are exploring “which chemicals in the blood or genes determine or help predict who will become addicted,” said Arthur Garson Jr., dean of the medical school.

The hope is that the research may one day lead to a vaccine preventing cigarette dependency and a subsequent decrease in the number of people suffering lung cancer and emphysema, Garson added.

The donation has yet to be allocated among research departments, but Bankole Johnson, a professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences, said Friday that he hopes he will receive some funding to further his work developing drugs that wean people off their addiction to cigarettes.

“I think this is going to greatly help the research possibilities of those of us doing nicotine research,” Johnson said.

With the assistance of the McIntire School of Commerce, university scientists are studying how best to target youth and communicate to them the dangers of smoking.

“The goal is to develop personalized ways of educating children not to smoke,” Garson said.

Though it is not unusual for cigarette companies to fund research on ways to curb smoking, the donation drew some mixed reaction locally.

David Hazelip, a Charlottesville resident who conducts programs to help individuals quit smoking, said that while he believes the university is right to accept the donation, he believes Philip Morris’ gift is “hypocritical.”

“It seems strange for them to give money for research when they remain producing a product without letup that kills people,” he said.

The university is in the midst of an aggressive fundraising campaign with the goal of collecting $3 billion by the end of 2011. By the conclusion of last year, the university had raised $1.12 billion, but the figure has reached approximately $1.3 billion when unannounced gifts and future commitments are included, UVa President John T. Casteen III said.

“I’d like to see us reach the point where the board can enlarge the goal,” he said.

A closer look

Some other major donations the University of Virginia has received in recent years:

1. Approximately $64 million worth of distributions from the estate of David A. Harrison III, most directed toward endowed professorships in the schools of law and medicine.

2. A $52.6 million bequest from Ward Buchanan, a 1914 graduate of the law school, creating an unrestricted endowment fund for the Medical Center.

3. John W. Kluge donated his Albemarle County estate, valued in excess of $45 million.

4. Roughly $35 million from Paul Tudor Jones for the John Paul Jones Arena, plus a $10 million grant for additions to the environmental sciences building.

5. The Ivy Foundation gave $45 million to the School of Medicine.

- University of Virginia

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