Published October 19, 2020
Joseph P. Balthasar, professor of pharmaceutical sciences and director of the Center for Protein Therapeutics, has been named the first David and Jane Chu Endowed Chair in Drug Discovery and Development in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Balthasar is an internationally renowned researcher in protein therapeutics through the development of innovative mechanistic and physiological models to describe and predict protein disposition.
He is the primary investigator on two $1.5 million National Institute of Health grants studying cancer-causing agents. In his role as Center for Protein Therapeutics director, he administers over $5.2 million in funding from various pharmaceutical industry partners to provide internal funding to School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences research faculty and Center for Protein Therapeutics fellows.
Balthasar’s work also incorporates mathematic modeling to discover better ways to treat diseases. “Our approach is really to be opportunistic,” says Balthasar, who is also executive director of university research initiatives in the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development. “We look for problems that our strategies can solve.” His novel investigations into life-saving cancer treatments have the potential to improve millions of lives around the globe.
The Chu chair was established with a gift from alumni David C.K. Chu and Jane Chu, who say they are proud to support a researcher who shares their passion for education and research. “Jane and I had an excellent graduate education, which was the basis for our accomplishments in later life,” David Chu says.
Their gift to UB was also eligible for the SUNY Scholars of Excellence program, which helps support growth of prestigious endowed faculty positions statewide. The School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is the first school at the UB to benefit from this program.
“Gifts like this play a critical role in making UB the best pharmacy school in New York, placing us among a relatively small group of elite, research-intensive schools in the United States,” says James M. O’Donnell, professor and dean of the pharmacy school.
“An endowed chair has a generational effect,” O’Donnell adds. “Fifty years from now, there will still be a Chu chair and an endowed scientist in that chair.”
While Balthasar’s research reputation is the reason for his worldwide acclaim, teaching is also his passion. “I feel it’s the greatest job one could have, helping develop new, young scientists,” he says. He is quick to recognize the importance of his numerous mentors, including current and former School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences distinguished faculty members Ho-Leung Fung, William Jusko and Gerhard Levy.