HWI to join UB, strengthening medical science research and education in WNY

Connie Constantine, emeritus HWI board chair and granddaughter of Woodward Rivas, left, with UB President Satish K. Tripathi at Wednesday's news briefing. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

Release Date: May 29, 2024

Portraits of President Satish K. Tripathi in a studio setting in Davis Hall, taken in March 2020. Photographer: Douglas Levere.
“With UB-HWI, we look forward to expanding our research impact for the benefit of our region and world. ”
Satish K. Tripathi, president
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute will join the University at Buffalo, a move designed to strengthen the two organizations’ joint mission to advance medical science research and education in Western New York and beyond.

Announced today to employees at both institutions, HWI’s board of directors and the Hauptman Society are expected to approve the agreement at their respective meetings in June. With HWI joining UB, the long-standing partnership between the two institutions will be strengthened and will further the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Herbert A. Hauptman, who led HWI for decades while serving as a UB faculty member.

When the transaction is finalized, HWI will be known as the University at Buffalo Hauptman-Woodward Institute (UB-HWI).

UB will maintain HWI’s research center – 700 Ellicott St., on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus – as a hub for medical science research, and will keep UB-HWI as the building’s anchor. The HWI building will be gifted to the university, subject to required approvals, so that the facility will continue to serve as a hub of scientific research and innovation.

The agreement will build upon HWI’s excellence in structural biology research while leveraging UB’s world-class strengths in drug discovery, artificial intelligence, computational chemistry and other fields.

“Honoring the initial philanthropy of Helen Woodward Rivas, continued by the Constantine family, as well as the many incredible scientific achievements of Dr. Herbert Hauptman and the many talented researchers that followed, past and present, is of paramount importance to our board of directors,” said HWI Board Chairman Sam Russo. 

“As we explored possibilities with UB, we sensed clear alignment, and a unique opportunity emerged to meaningfully accelerate our collective research efforts by combining forces.  With the entire combined UB-HWI team, we are excited by the potential to grow our impact on the Buffalo community and the world,” he added.

UB President Satish K. Tripathi said that “with UB’s and HWI’s shared mission of research, education and community engagement, the university is very excited to welcome the members of the HWI community into the UB community.”

“As HWI prepares to join UB, we are deeply committed to preserving the rich legacy of HWI. For over 40 years, Dr. Herbert Hauptman, Nobel Laureate, dedicated himself to enriching the world around him as a scholar, educator and mentor,” he said. “With UB-HWI, we look forward to expanding our research impact for the benefit of our region and world.”

From left: Christopher Greene, emeritus HWI board director; Provost A. Scott Weber; Connie Constantine, emeritus HWI board chair; President Satish Tripathi; and Sam Russo, HWI board chair, pose for a photo at Wednesday's announcement that HWI will join UB. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

HWI was founded in 1956 as the Medical Foundation of Buffalo by Woodward Rivas and George Koepf, a Buffalo physician who believed basic research was critical to improving human health. It is believed to be the oldest independent nonprofit medical research institute in the nation that is dedicated to understanding and curing disease.

“This is an exciting time for HWI and UB, signaling a full-circle journey started by doctors and scientists affiliated with UB in 1956 who were doing leading-edge research as the Medical Foundation of Buffalo to the HWI scientists of today once again affiliating with the University at Buffalo,” said Connie Constantine, emeritus HWI board chair and granddaughter of Woodward Rivas.

“On behalf of the four generations in our family that have committed to the partnership between science and philanthropy, we look forward to advancing the joint missions of HWI and UB to ensure discovery and education continue to drive worldwide innovation.”

In 1985, Hauptman and Jerome Karle received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering new methods to visualize pharmaceuticals and proteins, and how they interact. These techniques have been adopted worldwide in the development of pharmaceuticals. In recognition of Hauptman’s achievement and to honor Woodward Rivas, the foundation was renamed the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute in 1994.

Today, HWI researchers continue to make critical advancements in structural biology, studying, among other things, the structures of the body’s proteins. This enables HWI scientists – many of whom have appointments at UB – to see what proteins look like when functioning properly, and what they look like in cancer, cardiovascular disease and other diseased states. The work has applications in medicine, biotechnology, agriculture and other fields.

UB human resources personnel will meet individually with HWI staff members to discuss transitioning to the university. 

Pairing the two organizations will spur cutting-edge research and innovation, officials say. For example, UB is home to Empire AI, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s $400 million artificial intelligence consortium. UB will partner with colleagues in UB-HWI to explore how AI can advance their understanding of diseases and potential treatments.

Additionally, UB envisions the new UB-HWI facility as a hub for community outreach and other programs designed to build interest in science, health and well-being.

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