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Research & development

U.S. oil baron gives $2 million to Calgary researchers

CALGARY – U.S. oil tycoon Boone Pickens has given a gift of US$2 million to Hotchkiss Brain Institute in Calgary. It’s said to be the largest donation Pickens has ever given to a Canadian cause, and will be used to establish the Boone Pickens Centre for Neurological Science and Advanced Technologies at the University of Calgary’s Health Research Innovation Centre (HRIC), adjacent to the Foothills Medical Centre.

The announcement was made by Reach!, the joint fundraising initiative of the University of Calgary and Calgary Health Region.

Said Pickens: “I made a lot of money in Canada from 1959-79, and it is important for me to give back to the communities where I’ve been successful.”

The US$2 million gift will finance a floor of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, bringing together top brain researchers from Calgary and other parts of Canada to conduct programs in such areas as ‘brain pacemakers’, neurosurgery robots, and brain-cell silicon chips. The programs are expected to have an impact on neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

“We are grateful for the generosity and commitment to brain research Boone Pickens demonstrates with this significant gift,” said Dr. Samuel Weiss, director, Hotchkiss Brain Institute and professor of Cell Biology at the University of Calgary. “This gift reinforces the importance of integrated medical research and excellence in care, and brings us a step closer to understanding, preventing and curing brain diseases and disorders.”

Harley Hotchkiss, a prominent Calgary philanthropist and a lead volunteer with Reach!, and his family, made a contribution of $15 million to establish the Hotchkiss Brain Institute in 2004. He and Pickens formed a lifelong friendship when Pickens found himself in Calgary looking for oil patch opportunities in the 1950s. (Pictured above: Harley Hotchkiss, left, and Boone Pickens.)

Hotchkiss was aware of Pickens’ philanthropic support to health and medical research and educational institutions in the United States, and he approached Pickens. “I had no hesitation in asking him to donate to this project; he’s a generous guy,” said Hotchkiss.

“We are thrilled to have the support of Mr. Pickens for our initiative,” said Brenda Mackie, co-chair of Reach!. “This is our first American gift to Reach! and we are honoured that Mr. Pickens chose to support the Calgary community in this way.”

One in four Canadians, or about eight million people, is affected by at least one of the more than 1,000 brain diseases and disorders.

About Reach!
Reach! is a five-year, $300 million joint fundraising partnership between the University of Calgary and the Calgary Health Region designed to raise targeted philanthropic dollars to build on excellence within Calgary’s existing health system. Projects included within Reach! span the continuum of the healthcare system, from research and education to patient care and community health. The vision is to “build a new world standard of health”.

About Hotchkiss Brain Institute
The Hotchkiss Brain Institute, established by the University of Calgary and the Calgary Health Region, is dedicated to neurological and mental health research and education, leading to new discoveries and their translation into improved patient care. It is the only research institute of its kind in Western Canada.

About Boone Pickens
Mr. Boone Pickens is a widely recognized business leader in the oil and gas sector. A native of Holdenville, Oklahoma, Mr. Pickens achieved global recognition 25 years ago when he was featured on the cover of Time and Fortune magazines for his accomplishments as the founder of a highly successful oil company from the Texas panhandle. He is listed on the Forbes 2005 “400 Wealthiest Americans” list with an estimated wealth of $1.5 billion. Mr. Pickens spent considerable time in Canada from 1959 – 1979 and maintains Canadian ties through his business interests. He oversees more than $3 billion in two funds as Chairman of BP Capital LLC, which have a large stake in Canadian oil sands through investments in Suncor Energy Inc. and Canadian Oil Sands Trust. The American Chronicle of Philanthropy lists Boone Pickens as the fifth-largest charitable giver in 2005. He has donated nearly a half a billion dollars to philanthropic causes during his career. In 2005 Mr Pickens’ total giving was nearly $230 million, including $7 million to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort and $165 million to Oklahoma State University.