New center for nanotechnology research, cancer treatment opens

Catherine Kim, Assistant Campus Editor

The Ronald and JoAnne Willens Center for Nano Oncology opened in late April, according to a University news release.

The center is located within the International Institute for Nanotechnology at Northwestern and is named in recognition of Ronald and JoAnne Willens, who gave a $10 million gift to the University in 2011, the release said. The center is led by McCormick Prof. Chad Mirkin and supports research focused on cancer treatment by applying advances in nanotechnology, according to the release.

“The potential for using nanotechnology in the fight against cancer is vast,” Mirkin said in the release. “The generous support from the Willens family is enabling researchers to work toward the development of new medicines that can attack the disease at its genetic roots. Certain types of nanostructures, spherical nucleic acids in particular, can deliver therapeutics into tissues many drugs normally will not enter, including the brain and skin.”

Ronald and JoAnne Willens, who were present at the ribbon-cutting event marking the center’s grand opening, have been long-time donors to the University, according to the news release. They have contributed more than $20 million to Northwestern through the “We Will” Campaign, a university-wide fundraising effort. The Willens family are also members of NU Loyal, which is a giving society recognizing consistent annual giving to NU.

According to the release, the Willens family is “humbled” by Northwestern’s achievements in research. Ronald Willens said in the release he is grateful they can contribute to research and innovation that helps humanity.

“Through their visionary gift, Ron and JoAnne have made it possible for us to take a significant step toward understanding and combating cancer, by bringing great students, great faculty and great staff together,” University President Morton Schapiro said in the release. “Ron and JoAnne are passionate about advancing technologies that bring improvements to people’s lives. We are indebted to them for their extraordinary commitment to this effort and to Northwestern.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the Willens family name. The Daily regrets the error.

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