Penn launches $750M investment in science, engineering, and medicine

Aerial view of Fisher Fine Arts building, Franklin Field, and city of Philadelphia in the background.

University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann today announced the launch of a $750M investment advancing Penn’s pathbreaking contributions to innovative and impactful areas of medicine, public health, science, and technology. The investment will be made in four areas of scientific research over the next five years:

  • Novel therapeutics and health-related initiatives
  • Energy and sustainability
  • Data engineering and science
  • Infrastructure to support physical science research

“These game-changing investments allow Penn to move forward rapidly on longstanding priorities in key medical and scientific areas,” said Gutmann. “These investments are made possible thanks to our sky-rocketing innovation ecosystem led by our faculty, the Penn Center for Innovation, and our blockbuster Power of Penn campaign. An absolutely critical driver and enabler of this initiative has been the enormous success across all of Penn’s schools in faculty recruitment and retention. These and other major successes provide the perfect opportunity to elevate Penn’s eminence in science, engineering, and medicine in a manner that will resonate through decades.”

In the broad area of health-related science and public health research and translation, the Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM) will make major new investments in research space, priority research programs, and faculty recruitment. Throughout the last decade, PSOM has increased research funding by more than 40%. PSOM will increase research space by approximately 400,000 square feet to accommodate existing and planned research programs over the next decade. In parallel, PSOM will catalyze research momentum in strategic priority areas including mRNA biology, vaccine development, immune health, cellular engineering, and gene therapy. Both major expansions—in space and in programmatic research—will be supplemented by investments in faculty recruitment, with continued emphasis on the recruitment of women and faculty underrepresented in science and medicine. “The large scale of these PSOM investments is more than matched by the opportunity to continue making breakthrough discoveries to create new therapies and improve health,” said Gutmann.

Additionally in the health area will be the creation of the Eidos LGBT+ Health Initiative, centered in the School of Nursing that will serve as a social innovation hub facilitating public health science focused on sexual and gender minorities.

The Energy and Sustainability Initiative will focus on three target areas: diversifying energy sources and storage; energy efficiency and sustainability; and monitoring, sequestering, and transforming climate-changing pollutants. It will be led by the School of Arts & Sciences (SAS).

The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences will take the lead on the Innovation in Data Engineering and Science (IDEAS) Initiative, which also has three target areas for research: scientific discovery and experimentation; design and engineering of autonomous systems; and methodologies to understand the human brain.

Specifically, funds will be used to recruit 10 faculty under each of the Energy and Sustainability and IDEAS research focus areas, using a cluster-hire approach, in support of building the best teams at Penn. “We have nationally and internationally recognized leaders in each of these fields who have already helped shape the directions for Penn to lead in having impact, and who can lead and help direct the recruitment efforts,” said Gutmann.

Complementing the targeted faculty recruitment and growth in the physical sciences, with Penn experts and exceptional strengths anchored in the areas of quantum information science and soft and living matter, the University will also be undertaking a project to substantially reimagine the David Rittenhouse Laboratory (DRL) complex to support a modern Physical Science Building.

To allow for a wholesale revisioning of the existing DRL and to complement the Vagelos Laboratory for Energy Science and Technology (VLEST) at 32nd and Walnut streets, which is currently under construction and is scheduled for completion in fall 2024, the University is also spearheading a new multiuse SAS Physical Sciences Building. The Physical Sciences Building will be located strategically between DRL and VLEST. Much like Singh, the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter, and VLEST, this new facility will also provide research space for SEAS faculty as well as offer state-of-the art, hands-on teaching laboratories that facilitate student access at all levels to learning-by-doing experimentation and will promote research opportunities for undergraduate students. “This renovation will importantly include the creation of state-of-the-art classroom space for the many courses that Penn students take in DRL,” said Gutmann.

Occupancy of the Physical Sciences Building will be strategically staged in order to also enable the renovation and modernization of DRL, the renewal of which is critical to the successful recruitment and retention of preeminent faculty.

Summarizing the scope of new investments, Gutmann noted: “These new initiatives will continue to support faculty recruitment and retention and position Penn to be a world leader in some of the most critically important and impactful scientific fields for years to come.”