Harvard School of Public Health Receives $24 Million Gift

To establish the 'Center for Nutrient, Genetic, and Metabolic Research.'

The newly renamed Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) has received a $24 million gift on behalf of Murat Ülker and his family. Ülker, a Turkish entrepreneur, donated the gift to establish the Sabri Ülker Center for Nutrient, Genetic, and Metabolic Research.

HSPH reps say that the gift “will address what many scientists consider to be one of the greatest public health threats of the twenty-first century: chronic and complex diseases of a metabolic nature such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

Julio Frenk, the dean of the HSPH, says that there’s been an increase in the incidences of these diseases in Turkey and other countries around the world. “With rates of chronic metabolic disorders skyrocketing across the globe, this transformational gift comes at a time of great need for resources to support our basic research,” Frenk said in a statement. “The knowledge emerging from this line of scientific exploration has tremendous implications for efforts around the globe to prevent and treat problems like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.”

The gift, which is being used to support work being led by Gökhan S. Hotamisligil, MD, PhD, who’s the J.S. Simmons Professor of Genetics and Metabolism at HSPH, will establish the new center “to integrate advanced molecular and mechanistic research exploring how the body regulates metabolism and processes and uses nutrients. This work is believed to be an important scientific frontier for slowing the worldwide epidemic of metabolic diseases,” according to HSPH.

HSPH outlines in a new report why this funding is important:

Worldwide, obesity has nearly doubled since 1980 and more than 1.4 billion adults aged 20 and older are overweight or obese, leading to an estimated 3.4 million deaths annually. Health consequences of overweight and obesity include heart disease and stroke—the leading causes of death worldwide—diabetes, and several types of cancer. Recent studies have shown the prevalence of obesity in Turkey increasing to nearly 35 percent of the country’s population. Other research demonstrates that 13.7 percent of Turks have been diagnosed with diabetes as of 2010. In the U.S., researchers predict that the number of obese Americans will rise to 164 million by 2030, leading to 7.8 million more cases of diabetes, 6.8 million more cases of coronary heart disease and stroke, and 539,000 more cases of cancer.

There is an urgent need for new and innovative approaches to manage the overwhelming burden of chronic diseases and offer better ways to prevent these diseases from developing.

“The Sabri Ülker Center will address this unsustainable trend by developing new strategies and approaches to prevent and treat such debilitating disorders,” said Ali Ülker, grandson of Sabri Ülker and Vice Chairman of the Yıldız Holding Board of Directors, in a statement. “We hope this contribution to science will benefit humanity greatly and we have every confidence in Professor Hotamisligil’s research and leadership as a world-renowned, preeminent scientist in the field of metabolic diseases.”