sealPurdue News

October 25, 2001

Lilly Endowment grants almost $26 million to Purdue Discovery Park

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University today (Thursday, 10/25) announced that Lilly Endowment has awarded the university a grant of almost $26 million for its new Discovery Park, a complex for advanced interdisciplinary research and education.

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Purdue will leverage the grant and state funding with existing university funds, private donations and federal research support to create the $100 million park. Initial plans for the 40-acre site on the west edge of campus call for centers to house research in nanotechnology, bioscience/engineering and e-enterprises. The park also will include an entrepreneurship center to help transfer research findings into products and services.

Purdue President Martin C. Jischke said the announcement of the Endowment grant is part of the university's yearlong campaign to help Hoosiers "Discover Purdue."

The facilities in this park will not be designed around any existing academic disciplines, but rather around new interdisciplinary areas that hold great promise for new discoveries and new economic opportunities, Jischke said.

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"Universities can make tremendous strides in discovery and create substantial entrepreneurial momentum by breaking down the traditional barriers among academic disciplines and between institutions," Jischke said. "Discovery Park will be designed around the assumption that all relevant academic areas will participate as teams in each initiative. Engineers, physicians, scientists, entrepreneurs and geneticists all might be a part of a project as it moves from the idea stage to the marketplace.

"If Purdue can rank among the world's leaders in cross-disciplinary teaching and research and in entrepreneurship, then our students and faculty will rank among the most respected and sought-after professionals in the world. That, in turn, should be a major boon to Indiana and its economy. We believe the creation of Discovery Park will be a transforming event, not only for Purdue, but also for the state of Indiana."

N. Clay Robbins, president of the Endowment, said Discovery Park has the potential to transform Indiana and its economy.

"Purdue, because of its international prominence in the high-technology fields, is a magnificent resource," he said. "The university not only graduates large numbers of scientists, engineers and information specialists, but it also has immense research capacity and expertise in its business, management and entrepreneurial studies.

"The Endowment is especially intrigued by the synergies that should be achieved through the strategic linkages among the Discovery Park's centers. The Discovery Park will be a magnet for intellectual talent and should complement the good work of the Purdue Research Park by dramatically increasing technology transfer activity."

Sara B. Cobb, Endowment vice president for education, said: "For the last several years, the Endowment has invited selected Indiana colleges and universities to propose to us bold, creative ideas that emerge from their histories and missions and that will cause the institutions to achieve new levels of distinction. We also have asked that these projects have the potential to add significantly to the well-being of the state of Indiana. Purdue has exceeded our expectations with this proposal. Discovery Park should pay large dividends for the people of Indiana."

Purdue held a ceremonial groundbreaking Sept. 7 on the first of those buildings, the $51 million Birck Nanotechnology Center. The new center, scheduled to open in the fall of 2004, will be among the best university facilities in the nation dedicated to nanotechnology research, Jischke said. It will be funded with a combination of private and public money.

HDR Inc., a worldwide architectural-engineering firm headquartered in Omaha, Neb., is designing the center. HDR recently designed the Advanced Measurement Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, in Gaithersburg, Md. The $235 million NIST lab, which is currently under construction, will be among the most advanced measurement facilities in the world.

Funds are being raised for the other centers that will make up Discovery Park.

Birck Nanotechnology Center

Nanotechnology is an emerging science in which new materials and tiny structures are built atom-by-atom, or molecule-by-molecule, instead of the more conventional approach of sculpting parts from pre-existing materials. Nano is a prefix meaning one-billionth, so a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter.

Just as antibiotics, silicon transistors and plastics affected nearly every aspect of society in the 20th century, nanotechnology is expected to have profound influences in the 21st century.

The possibilities include:

• The creation of entirely new materials with superior strength, electrical conductivity, resistance to heat and other properties.

• Microscopic machines for a variety of uses, including probes that could be injected into the body for medical diagnostics and repair.

• A new class of ultra-small, super-powerful computers and other electronic devices, including spacecraft.

• A technology in which biology and electronics are merged, creating "gene chips" that instantly detect food-borne contamination, dangerous substances in the blood or chemical warfare agents in the air.

• Artificial organs.

• The development of "molecular electronics" and devices that "self-assemble," similar to the growth of complex organic structures in living organisms. Theoretically, once set in motion, such self-assembling devices would build themselves, making electronics processing far less expensive than conventional semiconductor processing.

Bioscience/Engineering Center

The bioscience/engineering center will support a variety of projects, some of which will explore genomics, which is the mapping of individual genes of living organisms and then figuring out how those thousands of genes function. This would show how cells are regulated and respond to chemicals, mutations, environmental stimuli, age, disease and pathogens.

Genomics research offers promise in many areas, from improving the disease resistance of plants and animals, to saving endangered wildlife and increasing the production of certain crops that require fewer pesticides.

"Many Purdue faculty are making advances based upon genomics," Jischke said. "Genomics is enabling the development of corn, soybeans and wheat that can withstand the stresses of severe weather. Genomics advancements allow faculty to understand pollination processes to produce better crops."

The bioscience/engineering center also will connect researchers in the life sciences with engineers in the nanotechnology center. Researchers in medicinal chemistry, electrical engineering and other fields already are at work designing devices and electronic chips that will use DNA to quickly detect substances in the blood, air or in food.

The center will focus initially on the interdisciplinary fields of biomedical engineering and proteomic analysis.

One focus of biomedical engineering will be "tissue engineering," creating materials from animal tissue that can promote healing in people. These products now are being used to treat urinary incontinence in women, repair internal organs and damaged ligaments, and cure skin wounds and chronic sores. Two Indiana companies hold licenses from Purdue to develop the technology.

Proteomics involves identifying and studying proteins formed in living systems when specific genes are activated. The main objective of this work will be to create a new generation of devices in the next decade that will allow the nearly instantaneous analysis of up to 500,000 components in living cells.

The work has many potential applications. For example, these instruments might be used in a doctor's office to diagnose and treat patients, analyze food, take biological field samples and scan the air for contamination much faster and more efficiently than conventional instruments.

Other research will focus on identifying genes and proteins that make insects resistant to pesticides, learning the gene sequences of insects important for agriculture and identifying critical proteins involved in aggressive stinging behavior in bees. New tools in genomics and proteomics will help Purdue researchers improve the quality and production of hardwood trees that are important for the furniture industry.

"The outcomes of this research will be superior trees that grow faster, are resistant to naturally occurring diseases and outbreaks of insects, and trees that yield higher quality wood products," Jischke said.

E-enterprises Center

The e-enterprises center will pull together a myriad of related new-technology activities on the campus, with a special focus on three core areas where Purdue has, or can develop, national leadership:

• Network security and reliability.

• Management of distributed e-enterprises, including database systems.

• Logistics and distribution of products and marketing of e-enterprises.

Purdue's new e-enterprises center will bring together faculty and students with strengths in database systems design and integration engineering, software engineering, communication, management, operations systems, production systems, decision theory applications, system performance, risk evaluation, marketing, customer service and model simulation.

"The word e-enterprise suggests new forms of commerce that could not have existed before recent advances in information technology," Jischke said. "But it should also reflect the transformation that more established industries are being forced to undertake in response to the same factors."

Through this center, an entire business – commerce, supply chain, management, operations, product lifecycle control, customer service and data security – can be modeled, analyzed and made more efficient.

Working with Purdue's industrial and government partners, the center will be an interactive test bed that will combine computer models with human behavior at various levels (from strategy formulation to operations management) in a real-world environment.

A key component will be the design and development of computer security tools.

"This center is only fitting for Purdue, which started the nation's first computer science program," Jischke said. "Purdue now produces more information technology graduates – majors in computer sciences, computer engineering, computer technology, computer graphics technology and the management of information systems – than any university in the nation."

Center for Entrepreneurship:

The center for entrepreneurship will nurture the entrepreneurial spirit of Purdue faculty and students. It will be the home of:

• The Technology Transfer Initiative, which will research issues industry encounters when trying to license and market new technologies and products. It also will help faculty design courses to teach entrepreneurship.

• The Purdue Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) program, in which undergraduates work with community service agencies to find ways to use technology to solve problems and improve services.

• The Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurial Competition, in which engineering and management students work together to demonstrate their ideas for new products or services and show how they could be developed into profitable businesses.

• The Innovation Realization Lab, which pairs engineering and management graduate students on projects to help them understand the way research fits in with social and commercial needs.

• Forums where graduating students can present business plans to business and community leaders.

Writer: Jeanne Norberg, (765) 494-2084,

Source: Martin C. Jischke, (765) 494-9708

Related information:
Top 10 gifts to Purdue

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Purdue President Martin C. Jischke, at podium, and N. Clay Robbins, president of the Lilly Endowment, announced Thursday (10/25) a Lilly Endowment grant of almost $26 million for the university's new Discovery Park. The park will be a complex for advanced interdisciplinary research and education that will house centers for study in nanotechnology, bioscience/engineering, e-enterprises and entrepreneurship. Thursday's announcement was made at a reception and press conference at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown, 350 W. Maryland St. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)

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Purdue University's new $100 million Discovery Park will bring together researchers from a wide range of specialties for the exploration of new ideas, technologies and products. Four major centers are planned for the park so far: The Birck Nanotechnology Center (NEC), a bioscience/engineering center (BEC), an e-enterprises center (EEC), and a center for entrepreneurship (CE). (Purdue University graphic)

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