Johns Hopkins Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery receives $15M contribution

Gift from trustee and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein will support research focused on the development of therapeutic approaches to preserve and restore hearing

Philanthropist and Johns Hopkins Medicine trustee David M. Rubenstein has made a $15 million commitment to the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Johns Hopkins to support the department's research.

David M. Rubenstein

Image caption: David M. Rubenstein

The gift, his second pledge of that size to the department, will establish the David M. Rubenstein Precision Medicine Center of Excellence and will deepen his support for basic science researchers focused on the development of therapeutic approaches to preserve and restore hearing. Three strategic project teams, working in collaboration with researchers across Johns Hopkins University, will explore inner ear hair cell repair, sensory neuron repair, and nanomedicine drugs and drug delivery.

Rubenstein's gift will also support core facilities for these teams, consisting of:

  • An imaging core, which provides the best access to equipment and technologies, expertise, and supplies to perform the research
  • A functional core, to allow investigators to go beyond conventional audiological metrics in optimal listening conditions to test the quality of restored hearing
  • A delivery core, which provides genes and compounds for the testing of new therapeutic interventions

Additionally, funds from this gift will support an annual conference and a speaker series.

"David's initial gift has helped Johns Hopkins researchers make important discoveries in several crucial areas related to hearing and hearing loss," said Paul B. Rothman, dean of the School of Medicine and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine. "But there is so much more to be done in this area, and once again, David has stepped forward. We are grateful for all that his generosity has made possible so far, and we are even more excited about what this new commitment will allow us to accomplish going forward. In the end, this work will help the millions of people who struggle every day with hearing problems."

Rubenstein's earlier gift to the department, made in 2015, funded the creation of an endowment to support cross-institutional accelerator grants. Any researcher at Johns Hopkins may apply for a grant for new or existing research to further the understanding of hearing. Grant amounts vary. In FY19, a total of $800,000 was awarded to seven different research projects, plus research core support. The earlier gift also established an endowed professorship, providing critical funds in perpetuity to support a leading faculty member in research and teaching.

"David's support has enabled innovative research projects that leverage the expertise and imagination of scientists, engineers, and clinicians from across Johns Hopkins," said Paul Fuchs, the inaugural David M. Rubenstein Research Professor of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery. "This is particularly important as we move from basic discovery of molecular and cellular mechanisms, to targeting these for therapeutic benefit. Current efforts employ gene therapy to correct inherited deafness, to regenerate cochlear hair cells, or to enhance protection from acoustic trauma. Other strategies aim to re-establish lost connections from inner ear to brain, a significant contributor to noise-induced and age-related hearing loss."

To learn more about some of the advances made possible through Rubenstein's generosity and hear from the researchers, visit the Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery YouTube playlist.

Rubenstein is a founder and co-executive chairman of The Carlyle Group, a global investment firm. Rubenstein is a noted philanthropist and a long-time member of the Johns Hopkins Medicine board of trustees.

"It is a privilege to support the talented and committed researchers and doctors of Johns Hopkins who are helping people suffering from hearing loss," Rubenstein said. "I am impressed with the progress made in recent years and hope this new gift will accelerate and deepen those efforts."

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