Joseph P. Balthasar PhD, professor of pharmaceutical sciences, is a world-renowned researcher working toward life-changing treatments for cancer, COVID-19 and other diseases. He is a “brilliant” researcher who has changed the field of protein therapeutics, according to James M. O’Donnell, PhD, professor and dean of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
And now, he is the newly named David and Jane Chu Chair in Drug Discovery and Development.
The Chu chair was established recently by David C.K. Chu, PhD ’75, and Jane Chu, MS ’75, MA ’74, who are proud to support a researcher who shares their passion for education and research. “We had an excellent graduate education, which was the basis for our accomplishments in later life,” notes David.
From an early age, there were signs that Balthasar was destined for a career in research. “Growing up, I was always interested in science, messing around with things like model rockets, and basically conducting mini science experiments,” he says.
Today, Balthasar is the executive director of University Research Initiatives, and director of the Center for Protein Therapeutics—an increasingly crucial role, given that protein-based therapies now account for half of all new drugs. Funding from the endowed chair will allow Balthasar to conduct research designed to discover new therapies that are more effective and less toxic, especially for patients with autoimmune disorders, breast cancer and colorectal cancer.
Balthasar’s work applies mathematic modeling to discover better ways to treat diseases. “Our approach is really to be opportunistic,” says Balthasar. “We look for problems that our strategies can solve.”
While Balthasar’s research has earned him worldwide acclaim from his peers, he also cherishes the time he spends teaching the next generation. “I feel it’s the greatest job one could have, helping develop new young scientists,” says Balthasar, who is quick to recognize the importance of his numerous UB mentors, including Ho-Leung Fung, William Jusko and Gerhard Levy.
Now, thanks to the Chus’ generosity, Balthasar can continue to enrich the lives of his students in the classroom and lab—and potentially improve millions of lives around the globe through his research.
“Gifts like this play a critical role in making UB the best pharmacy school in New York, and among a relatively small group of elite, research-intensive schools in the United States,” notes O’Donnell, who appreciates the long-term impact of the Chus’ gift. “An endowed chair has a generational effect. Fifty years from now there will still be a Chu chair and an endowed scientist in that chair.”
“We believe that education is the most important investment we can make in young people,” says David Chu, one of the nation’s leading academic experts in the area of drug discovery. David and Jane Chu’s gift established the first endowed faculty position in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.