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A Family's Vision

Jaharis Family Center for Biomedical and Nutrition Research will transform biomedical research for a new century

The vision and leadership of one family in the Tufts University community will help define medical research for the next generation by creating a catalyst for the prevention, treatment and cure of some of the world's most vexing diseases.

Michael and Mary Jaharis, along with their children, Dr. Steven Jaharis, M87, and Kathryn Jaharis Ledes, have made what can only be described as a transforming gift to Tufts, one that will result in the construction of the $60 million Jaharis Family Center for Biomedical and Nutrition Research on the Boston campus. The facility has been hailed as the first in the country to bring biomedical science, nutrition research and public policy together under one roof. More than a year ago, Michael Jaharis (left), chairman of the Miami-based KOS Pharmaceuticals and an industry leader in the creation of new and improved pharmaceuticals, issued Tufts this challenge: Raise $10 million for this new research facility, and I will match it.

Tufts met that challenge, and ground-breaking ceremonies for the nine-story research building on Harrison Avenue took place on April 29. "To merely say thank you on an occasion such as this seems wholly inadequate," Tufts President John DiBiaggio said at the ground-breaking. "Words simply cannot express the depth of our feelings."

Michael Jaharis' philanthropy, equaling the largest gift in university history, is simply part of his nature, Steven Jaharis said. Jaharis' Greek immigrant parents instilled in their son "an urge to be helpful, a passionate imagination and an ability to translate his passion into action," Steven Jaharis said.

A university trustee and chairman of the Board of Overseers to the School of Medicine, Michael Jaharis has been a passionate advocate for Tufts and for helping the university widen its sphere of influence in national and global arenas, DiBiaggio said.

The ceremonial start of construction on the Jaharis Center took place in a tent in the parking lot across from the Arthur M. Sackler Center for Health Communications. When the Jaharis Center is completed in two years, that parking lot will contain four acres of laboratory space that will bring together researchers in four "enters of excellence"-cancer and how cells become tumors; infectious disease and how the immune system and diet affect bacterial and viral infections; developmental biology; and liver function and disease.

Dr. John T. Harrington, dean of the School of Medicine, has said that the Jaharis Center stands as the third major event in medical school history over the past half-century. The first was the school's move in 1950 from Huntington Avenue to its current location on Harrison Avenue, and the second was the opening of the Sackler Center in 1985.

Even before construction started, the Jaharis Center commanded national attention. "This new center at Tufts is quite exceptional and timely," said Wendy Baldwin, deputy director for extramural research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "More and more, we at NIH are looking for effective collaborations to address contemporary health issues, and this is an example of the kind of infrastructure that it takes to make that happen."

Tufts received nearly $25 million in private funding for the new building-including significant donations from a number of Tufts researchers, physicians and even entire departments of the medical school's affiliated hospitals. The remaining funds for the $60 million project came from a $7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, loans and university reserve funds.

The Jaharis Family Center also will be home to Tufts' Center on Hunger and Poverty. Created in 1990, the center has addressed a number of domestic hunger policy issues and has undertaken several initiatives, including the universal school breakfast program.

DiBiaggio said he expects that the $120 million in annual funded research currently done at Tufts and its affiliated hospitals will grow considerably as the Jaharis Center serves to strengthen collaborations among Tufts researchers.

"All eyes are focused on this facility worldwide-from the USDA, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, to a number of international organizations with which we already collaborate," DiBiaggio said. "Together we are making history."

Dawn Howard Gross, a M.D./Ph.D. candidate at the School of Medicine, said the building has enormous implications for students as well as senior researchers. Working with Tufts scientists Allen Steere and Brigitte Huber, Gross was the sole student researcher on a scientific breakthrough in which a specific protein was pulled off the spirochete that causes Lyme arthritis and matched to a human protein. It signaled the first time that scientists have identified the precise cause for an autoimmune reaction in the joints of patients with arthritis. The research, reported in Science, was named one of the top 10 scientific discoveries of 1998 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"The faculty here puts students first," Gross said at the groundbreaking. "Let us acknowledge all that we have accomplished already. Today is a true reflection of what Tufts has always been."

Steven Jaharis, a member of the Board of Overseers to the School of Medicine, provided the inspiration at the groundbreaking with his moving tribute to his grandfather, who emigrated to America from Greece.

"His journey brought him to the Medford/Somerville area in 1908 where he spent approximately 20 years doing whatever he could to make a living in order to save enough money to sail back to that same island in Greece to find his wife," Jaharis said. "His work ethic was such that a day off was unheard of. In fact, he continued working into his 80s. It is doubtful that he ever allowed himself to stop and wonder whether all his effort was worth it. He simply did what was necessary."

Michael Jaharis' "association with Tufts University has been quite gratifying, and his enthusiasm for helping solve the school's problems continues to grow," Steven Jaharis said. "It seemed only natural, therefore, that he issue a challenge grant for this medical research center because he learned long ago from his father that you do what is necessary and what is right.

"Thank you, Papou, it was all worth it."

   

 

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