PHILADELPHIA — The University of Pennsylvania has received an undisclosed gift from father and son philanthropists Joel and William Smilow to support Penn Medicine’s translational research activities, naming the Smilow Center for Translational Research in the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The gift also establishes the William Smilow Professorship in the field of cardiovascular medicine and the William Smilow Award for Innovation in Clinical Excellence. While the exact gift amount remains undisclosed, it is the largest capital gift to date to the University of Pennsylvania’s $3.5 billion Making History fundraising campaign, and among the top gifts in Penn Medicine’s history.
“We are enormously grateful to Joel and Bill Smilow for their profoundly generous gift, which will help ensure that Penn is at the vanguard of innovative medical research and cures,” said University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann. “The Smilow Center for Translational Research provides a state-of-the-art environment where eminent physicians, researchers and scientists at Penn Medicine will work side-by-side to advance medical science. The Smilows are noted for their significant philanthropic works throughout the nation, and Penn is very proud to be the recipients of their first gift here in Philadelphia.”
The Smilow Center for Translational Research brings Penn basic scientists and physicians together to deliver discoveries quickly and effectively to patients. The collaborative, innovative design of the Smilow Center for Translational Research helps research teams accelerate targeted scientific discoveries for a wide range of diseases and train the next generation of physician-scientists. The gift also provides support to enhance Penn’s medical bioinformatics team and infrastructure, allowing researchers to mine large amounts of genetic, imaging, and biomarker data for patterns, and analyze gene sequences and drug targets.
“This transformational gift from the Smilow family is a remarkable example of the Smilows’ shared commitment with Penn to biomedical research,” said J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, dean of the Perelman School of Medicine and executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System. “Our scientists in the Smilow Center can train and work as fast and collaboratively as possible with Penn Medicine patient care teams to ensure that patients are able to benefit from scientific advances in areas such as cancer, obesity and cardiovascular disease.”
A prominent silhouette in the Philadelphia skyline, the 531,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art Smilow Center was described as “the envy of the nation’s most prestigious research scientists,” by National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, at the building’s 2011 dedication. The building flanks two of Penn’s outpatient-care facilities: the Ruth and Raymond Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, home of the Abramson Cancer Center, and the Roberts Proton Therapy Center. The eight floors of the Smilow Center for Translational Research are each the size of a football field, with more than 700 laboratory work stations and 180 research bays throughout. More than 100 lead researchers and 900 staff members from a wide range of departments, centers, and institutes work in the building.
“My son Bill and I believe that Penn shares our philosophy on making an immediate impact on peoples’ lives,” said Joel Smilow, former chairman and chief executive officer of Playtex Products, Inc. “We are delighted to make this significant contribution to advancing health care in our nation and around the world.”
Chestnut Hill resident William Smilow, president and founder of Great Oak Holdings, Inc., serves on the Penn Medicine Cardiovascular Institute Leadership Council, where he was first introduced to the research advances taking place on the Penn campus. “My family feels a deep connection with both the communities where we live and the challenges that touch our lives,” he explained. “We feel it is important to inspire compassionate and visionary giving in others, and are proud to help promote the wide range of medical discovery that will take place at the Smilow Center.”
Joel Smilow and Family have long been major donors to the medical field, most notably with the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven Hospital and the Joel E. and Joan L. Smilow Medical Research Center at the NYU School of Medicine. There is also a William S. Smilow Center for Marfan Syndrome at Johns Hopkins. Major gifts have been made to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, the Norwalk Connecticut Hospital and the Bridgeport Connecticut Hospital.
In the youth services sector, Joel Smilow is the naming donor for nine Boys & Girls Clubs of America clubhouses in various parts of the United States. He is also a major donor to Yale University Athletics – via the renovation and expansion of its Field Center and endowment of four head coach positions – and to the New York Philharmonic. He retired from the corporate world (Chairman, President of Playtex Products, Inc.) in 1995.
Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $8.9 billion enterprise.
The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $496 million awarded in the 2020 fiscal year.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center—which are recognized as one of the nation’s top “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report—Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; and Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.
Penn Medicine is powered by a talented and dedicated workforce of more than 44,000 people. The organization also has alliances with top community health systems across both Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, creating more options for patients no matter where they live.
Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2020, Penn Medicine provided more than $563 million to benefit our community.