Boston University Biomedical Engineering Program Receives $14M Whitaker Foundation Leadership Award

Contact: Colin Riley, 617-353-2240 |

(Boston, Mass.) — The Virginia-based Whitaker Foundation has recognized Boston University’s worldwide leadership in biomedical engineering education and research with a $14 million Leadership Award to enhance and expand its biomedical engineering programs. The grant, which will be made over a five-year period, will be matched with an $18 million commitment from the University, for a total of $32 million in new program funding.

The award will enhance research and education in three interdisciplinary areas: cellular and subcellular bioengineering, protein and genomics engineering, and physiological systems dynamics. The University will use the award to recruit and hire a dozen new faculty members, fund graduate fellowships, and renovate and add new teaching and research space at both the Charles River and Medical Center campuses.

The grant also will fund the development of biomedical engineering and related courses and greatly expand the biomedical engineering graduate program.

“Boston University is sincerely grateful to the Whitaker Foundation for the significant support and recognition the Leadership Award provides,” says Boston University President Jon Westling. “It will enable the University to continue to educate and train the next generation of biomedical engineers and researchers to better understand the machinery of life, to advance the knowledge and treatment of human disease, and to develop new technologies to improve the health of mankind.

“The Whitaker Leadership Award is particularly gratifying, not only because it confirms the department’s leadership position in the discipline, but also because it recognizes our dedication to the tough, but absolutely necessary job of achieving excellence both in teaching and in research,” Westling adds. “Moreover, it validates the wisdom of the University’s commitment to undergraduate, as well as graduate, education in biomedical engineering.”

According to Whitaker Foundation President and CEO Peter G. Katona, “Boston University laid out a thoughtful and credible plan that the reviewers found exciting. The leadership at the University has a clear and convincing vision for the future and the faculty is intensely dedicated to education.”

Boston University becomes only the third school to earn a Whitaker Foundation Leadership Award, the foundation’s highest-level award, since it was founded in 1975. Previous Leadership Award recipients were The Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, San Diego.

The Biomedical Engineering Department at Boston University’s College of Engineering, established in 1966, is the oldest undergraduate program of its kind in the country and serves as a model for developing programs nationwide. Department Chairman Professor Kenneth Lutchen, who spearheaded the project, will serve as Principal Investigator and will direct implementation of the award.

“An unprecedented era of opportunity for biomedical science lies ahead,” Lutchen says. “Now, thanks to the Whitaker Foundation, we have the resources to advance our world-class nucleus of advanced bioengineering education and research. We will develop an educational program that brings to bear, in a comprehensive fashion, basic and applied sciences on both biomedical engineering and the life sciences.

“Through this program,” he adds, “we will educate and train generations of new biomedical scientists who will seek the origins of disease, develop remedies, and create new technologies that will improve, as never before, the health of human beings and our environment.”

In notifying the University of the foundation’s decision, Katona wrote: “Leadership Awards are given only to universities that already have shown educational leadership in biomedical engineering, and that demonstrate convincing plans for further major enhancements. Yours is one of only a few such universities.”

The Whitaker Foundation also announced a $12 million Leadership-Development Award to the University of California, Davis in this final round of Whitaker awards.

Boston University Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Christopher Reaske praised the combined efforts of many of the University’s academic and administrative units in developing a strong and credible grant application. “It was wonderful to have such a great team effort across the University be rewarded with one of the largest grants in the school’s history.”

The Whitaker Foundation was funded by a bequest in 1975 made by inventor and engineer Uncas A. Whitaker. The foundation’s primary focus is the support of education and research in biomedical engineering. It has been the largest private funder in this field for more than a quarter-century.

Boston University is the fourth largest independent university in the United States, with an enrollment of nearly 29,000 students in its 17 schools and colleges. The University offers an exceptional grounding in the liberal arts, a broad range of programs in the arts, sciences, law, medicine, engineering, and other professional areas in state-of-the art teaching and research facilities.