$115 million gift, largest in BU history, drives another strong year for campaign
Rajen Kilachand (Questrom’74, Hon.’14) has made the largest gift in Boston University’s history: $115 million to support a state-of-the-art research facility that brings together life scientists, engineers, and physicians from the Medical and Charles River Campuses and promises to accelerate life-changing developments in the fields of human health, the environment, and energy.
The unprecedented contribution directs $15 million to support construction of the new Rajen Kilachand Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering and $100 million to establish an endowment called the Rajen Kilachand Fund for Integrated Life Sciences and Engineering.
“Rajen Kilachand’s gift establishes an endowment that will support research in perpetuity,” said University President Robert A. Brown. “It will support hundreds of scientists, researchers, and graduate students working on research that will affect the human condition through research as varied as direct applications to human health, sustainable methods for producing organic materials, food security, and understanding the impact of climate change on all life. The Kilachand Center and the Research Fund will influence all the ways that life sciences and engineering come together to affect our future.”
The nine-story 170,000-square-foot center, at 610 Commonwealth Ave., opened in September and will ultimately be home to about 160 researchers, postdoctoral scholars, and staff, as well as 270 graduate students, all of whom will work in shared, flexible workspaces and common areas designed to encourage collaboration. It will include researchers from the Biological Design Center, the Center for Systems Neuroscience, and the Center for Research in Sensory Communication & Emerging Neural Technology. Areas of investigation will run the gamut: from tissue engineering to robotics, from sensory processing to the neurological underpinnings of memory, speech, and perception. New technologies expected to emerge from the research include more precise methods of drug delivery and next-generation hearing aids that work to selectively amplify important sounds in social settings.
“Researchers have done an amazing job of bringing ideas and technology from engineering, as well as from the physical sciences and computational sciences, to the field of life sciences,” said Gloria Waters, BU vice president and associate provost for research. “There is tremendous potential for faculty at the Kilachand Center to make significant impacts in areas of disease and disability.”
This is not the first time that Rajen Kilachand, a BU trustee, has provided transformational support to the University. In 2011 he gave $25 million to establish the Kilachand Honors College, and in 2012 another $10 million for renovations to Kilachand Hall. It was at BU, he said, that he first understood the influence of philanthropy on higher education. That understanding, combined with his family’s deep four-generation tradition of giving, has guided his lifelong personal mission of good works. “I would like to think that it’s almost part of our genes now,” he said.
Kilachand sees the new cross-disciplinary center as the model for future life sciences work, in both academia and industry. “I’m very excited about that collaboration,” he said. “I’m convinced that this research center is going to be the front-runner. I believe from the bottom of my heart that this will become one of the leading research institutes on the planet.”
His sentiments echo a key goal of the University: to increase its emphasis on interdisciplinary research and graduate education. “When you think about great research universities, many have been built on tremendous strength in traditional disciplines,” said Brown. “We believe that a differentiator for Boston University, both educationally for our students and in our impact on society through our research and scholarship, is to be very, very good at bringing those people together across those boundaries to work on the grand challenges—the very important problems the world has today.”