The History of the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research
When President Richard Nixon declared war on cancer in the early 1970s, he mobilized various entities of the U.S. government against the nation’s second largest killer, cancer. Hundreds of miles west of Washington, D.C., researchers at Purdue University were dreaming BIG as well.
Cross sections of faculty began meeting monthly as the Cancer Discussion Group, presenting seminars and workshops on their research. Members soon determined, however, that they needed a more permanent, formal way of integrating their efforts. In 1975, with the aid of a two-year planning grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a University Cancer Research Committee was established. In December 1976, the Purdue Cancer Center was created as a separate administrative unit within the University.
In April 1978, the center was awarded its first NCI Cancer Center Support Grant, which has been renewed continuously ever since. The center also received NCI construction grants to establish four floors of the Hansen Life Sciences Research Building as the permanent home for the Purdue Cancer Center. University officials made a significant commitment to developing this space as well. They provided the majority of construction funds for the building and more than $430,000 to equip new laboratories designated for cancer research.
Throughout the next two decades cancer center researchers collaborated on campus and beyond, contributing to such advances as genetic engineering, computerized imaging, immunotherapy, and the discovery of the connection between genetics, lifestyle factors, and tumor development. The efforts were led by three strong directors: Dr. D. James Morré, who served as founding director until 1986; Dr. William Baird, who served from 1986 to 1997; and Dr. Richard Borch, who began serving in 1998 concluded his tenure in 2006. Dr. Timothy Ratliff is currently serving as Director and started at the Center July 1, 2007.
By the early 21st century, as the Human Genome Project was completing its 13-year mission and bioinformatics was coming of age, dramatic changes were occurring at Purdue. Focusing on its new campus-wide mission of improving lives through discovery, learning, and engagement, the University pledged new shared resources and began awarding faculty positions to the center. Today, with expanded research staff, scientific partnerships, and sources of funding, we stride even more vigorously alongside our fellow researchers worldwide as we aim to eliminate the suffering and death due to cancer.
In July, 2009, the Purdue Cancer Center changed it's name to reflect a more accurate description of what it is we do - world class research. The Purdue Cancer Center was changed to the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research.