In a grand ceremony of more than 650 distinguished businessmen, elected officials, The University of Texas System leaders, and Health Science Center faculty and staff, the Sam and Ann Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies was officially dedicated at the Texas Research Park on May 2. Keynote speaker, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, said the Barshop Institute surpasses all others in longevity and aging research.
“The National Institutes of Health says this Institute is already the gold standard of aging research in the United States,” Sen. Hutchison said. “We have all done something to put the Health Science Center in its rightful place, but today one family stands out. We have a center of excellence on which we can build and that is what we are celebrating today. Sam and Ann Barshop have helped to promote this center of excellence that will be a magnet for this city in years to come.”
The Barshop Institute, named for distinguished San Antonio businessman and philanthropist Sam Barshop and his wife, Ann, is a visual expression of what has been a reality at the Health Science Center for many years – earnest research efforts in the laboratories and clinics to plumb aging’s truths with an eye to understanding and eventually treating the diseases that are related to it: cancer, diabetes and heart disease among them.
James Richard Huffines, chairman of the U.T. System Board of Regents, officially accepted the building on behalf of the Board. “Join me as we celebrate the addition of a new name to the list of America’s greatest medical institutions: The Barshop Institute!” Fireworks decorated the sky as the audience stood to celebrate the opening of the new building. A reception followed.
Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., president of the Health Science Center, calls the 45,600-square-foot building in the Texas Research Park “the next chapter in the Health Science Center’s rapid rise to join the world’s elite programs studying how to help us live healthier, more productive lives for as long as possible.”
“This new home for longevity research sets San Antonio apart, and our pledge to these generous South Texans, Sam and Ann Barshop, is that this will be the finest aging studies institute anywhere in the world throughout the 21st century,” said Dr. Cigarroa.
Arlan G. Richardson, Ph.D., director of the Barshop Institute, says the Institute’s new quarters will help provide structure to an already well-established organization of 160 researchers from the Health Science Center, the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, The University of Texas at San Antonio and U.T. Austin.
“I am proud to be the director and a team member of so many distinguished bench researchers and physician-scientists,” said Dr. Richardson, professor of cellular and structural biology and the Methodist Hospital Foundation Chair in Aging Studies and Research at the Health Science Center and a senior research career scientist with the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, Audie Murphy Division.
U.S. Rep. Charles Gonzalez, U.T. System Chancellor Mark Yudof and Huber Warner, Ph.D., associate director of the Biology of Aging Program at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), attended. Former Texas Gov. Dolph Briscoe Jr. also shared the day, along with Gen. Robert F. McDermott, a leader who envisioned the Texas Research Park in the 1980s.
“The research conducted by the Health Science Center is the cornerstone of the research funded by the Biology of Aging Program of the National Institute on Aging,” Dr. Warner said. “Dr. Richardson and his many colleagues in the Barshop Institute should be strongly congratulated for their excellent work to understand the many biological mechanisms of aging processes.”
The Barshop Institute has the largest number of NIA grants (36) and the highest total of NIA funding ($13.3 million) of any Texas institution, and is first in number of NIA grants and second in NIA funding among U.S. medical centers. Institute researchers have successfully competed for highly-sought-after center grants including the NIA Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging, the NIA Aging Interventions Testing Center, the multi-institutional Center on the Comparative Biology of Aging from the NIA and a just-funded VA Neurodegeneration Research Center from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Other centers include the VA Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) and the Hartford Center for Excellence in Geriatric Education from the John A. Hartford Foundation.
Sam and Ann Barshop are lifelong supporters of higher education. During his terms on The University of Texas System Board of Regents, Sam Barshop was the strongest proponent of keeping the System’s facilities in good running order.
His business career is legendary. He founded La Quinta Inns Inc. and is the retired chairman of the board, president and CEO. In 1995 his Barshop Enterprises Inc. joined forces with the C.P. Oles Co. of Austin to form a new company to merge their real estate interests. Barshop is chairman of the board of this San Antonio/Austin-based firm, Barshop & Oles Co.
The Barshops’ $4 million gift to the Health Science Center in 2001 resulted in the Institute that bears their names. Other donors included The Brown Foundation Inc., the National Institute on Aging and The University of Texas System. The U.T. System provided Permanent University Fund support for the new building.
Barshop Institute scientists are working on a myriad of topics in longevity and aging, including large, multifaceted programs that the research community calls “program projects.” Each is funded by multi-million-dollar grants. The current program projects are “DNA Repair, Mutations, and Cellular Aging,” headed by principal investigator Jan Vijg, Ph.D.; “Genetic and Epigenetic Studies of Aging,” headed by principal investigator James R. Smith, Ph.D.; and “Aging, Oxidative Stress, and Cell Death,” headed by principal investigator Brian Herman, Ph.D.