Giving Forward

Pioneering alum's $10.5 million gift boosts biomedical research at Houston graduate school

$10.5 million gift from pioneering alum boosts medical research

John Kopchick, Charlene Kopchick
John and Charlene Kopchick. Courtesy photo

John Kopchick, a renowned molecular endocrinologist in the field of human growth hormones, and his wife, Charlene, have donated $10.5 million to The University of Texas MD Anderson Center Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, officials announced on Friday.

The gift will fund up to 15 student fellowships at the graduate school where Kopchick received his doctorate in 1980 before launching an illustrious career at Ohio University, where he is professor of molecular and cellular biology and a lead investigator for the university’s Edison Biotechnology Institute, an interdisciplinary team of scientists working on new ways to diagnose and treat growth disorders, diabetes, obesity, auto-immune diseases, inflammation, aging, infectious diseases and cancer.

His pioneering research led to the creation of Somavert, a drug that inhibits abnormal growth hormone functions. In 2003, it was approved for use in patients with acromegaly, a disorder that causes excessive growth of organs and bones and leads to premature death.

Kopchick believes the drug may also be beneficial in the treatment of cancer and has established a collaborative research project with Dr. Ahmed Kaseb and Dr. Hesham Amin at MD Anderson.    

The Kopchicks both believe strongly in the value of education and scholarships for students who might not otherwise be able to afford to attend institutes of higher learning. Charlene Kopchick, who is assistant dean of students for campus involvement at Ohio University, notes that both she and her husband are the first in their respective families to go to college.

“There is a statement about giving forward and for me that is important. Had John not gotten scholarships to come here, we wouldn’t be where we are,” said Charlene, adding that the fellowships will help students who are in need of financial assistance to achieve their dream of a graduate medical school education.

John Kopchick received the Rosalie B. Hite Fellowship during his time at the MD Anderson UTHealth Graduate School, which is a partnership between The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).