Alkek commits $4.75 million

The Albert and Margaret Alkek Foundation has committed $4.75 million to establish the Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research and the Metabolomic Disease Center at Baylor College of Medicine. Both advanced collaborative research programs will be named for the foundation.

“The Alkek Foundation Centers will advance our work toward creating a personal ‘fingerprint’ for each patient,” said Dr. Paul E. Klotman, president and chief executive officer of BCM. “Ultimately, we will be able to determine a patient’s susceptibility to disease, and direct the prevention, diagnosis and/or treatments that will yield the best outcome for that individual.”

This gift builds on Baylor’s strengths in genetics, cell biology, and microbial sciences by investing in emerging fields that seek to define the underpinnings of disease. 

The Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research will serve as a College-wide hub for microbiome research in clinical applications, basic science and computational analyses. Dr. Joseph Petrosino, assistant professor of molecular virology and microbiology at BCM and a recognized leader in national metagenomic activities, has agreed to serve as the center’s director.

The human microbiome is the study of the organisms that colonize the body and their genetic composition as well as how they interact with a defined environment. Metagenomics refers to the genomic analysis of the DNA and RNA of various bacteria, viruses, fungi and other organisms that scientists sample as a microbial community. It is hoped that these studies will provide new molecules that will lead to disease treatments and other biotech applications.

The Metabolomic Disease Center will focus on the small molecules that result from cellular metabolism. Its work is based on the idea that the metabolic state, represented by all of these small molecules or metabolites, forms a “chemical” signature that is representative of the physical health of an organism. These biochemical insights can be translated into personalized diagnostics and therapeutics.

The College has recruited Dr. Arun Sreekumer, a molecular oncologist from the Medical College of Georgia, to direct the program that will consolidate metabolomics efforts across the institution. 

The gift from the Alkek Foundation will also support BCM faculty recruitment and drug development initiatives.

The Alkek Foundation is the legacy of oilman Albert B. Alkek and Margaret Alkek and provides support for charitable, religious, scientific, medical, cultural and educational organizations and programs serving the people of Texas. 

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