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Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research dedicates building wing in honor of Pemmaraju N. Rao, expert in women’s health research

The Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research (SFBR) will dedicate on January 26 a section of a building on its campus in honor of Pemmaraju N. Rao, Ph.D., an invaluable member of the SFBR community for 51 years. Rao is one of the world’s experts in women’s health and vice president of the new pharmaceutical company EvestraTM. “His life an extraordinary example of the pioneer spirit,” said SFBR President Kenneth P. Trevett.

Rao received his B.S. degree in chemistry at Andhra University in India before he was 20 years old and his Ph.D. degree from Calcutta University when he was just 25. The recipient of a Fulbright Travel Grant and Postdoctoral Fellowship, he journeyed to the University of Rochester to study steroid synthesis in 1954 and l955. He returned to his native land for three years to serve as Junior Scientific Officer for steroid research at the National Chemical Laboratory in Poona, India.

In l958, Rao was invited to SFBR by Nicholas T. Werthessen, Ph.D., to work with Leonard Axelrod, Ph.D., coming to San Antonio to the Foundation when it was still in its infancy and the city leaders were barely envisioning a biomedical enterprise here. His laboratory was in a renovated barn on Callaghan Road.

“He is really the last of the true pioneering researchers who came to the Foundation back in the 1950s when it was Tom Slick’s vision, at a time when there wasn’t any other research taking place in the city,” said John C. Kerr, a former SFBR board chair. “It really took a lot of courage and foresight to come here and develop a research program with very few community resources available.”

Rao soon became the leader of SFBR’s Organic Chemistry Department. Ultimately, he became a critical scientific partner in the development of contraceptive research, thus changing the face of women’s health care—and fundamentally altering the role of women in our society. His scholarship and technological leadership is also contributing to new medical approaches for certain forms of breast cancer, endometriosis and other serious afflictions. He has an extensive portfolio of intellectual property and his work and that of his colleagues have formed the basis of EvestraTM, a company spun off from the Foundation in 2008 through the entrepreneurial leadership of John R. Hurd, the current SFBR board chair, and Kerr.

In recognition of his status a highly valued colleague, an internationally respected scientist, and a true change agent in the field of women’s health, SFBR is naming that portion of the Slick-Urschel Building which housed the Department of Organic Chemistry the Dr. Pemmaraju N. Rao Wing. The plaque signifying this naming will read:

Dr. Pemmaraju N. Rao Wing
In grateful recognition of his fifty-one years of pioneering scientific endeavors, and intellectual leadership at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, this laboratory wing is named for Pemmaraju N. Rao, Ph.D.

Dr. Rao’s extraordinary achievements in the field of hormone regulation and women’s health have had a profound impact throughout the world.

His transformational studies have vastly improved understanding of reproduction and birth control and given rise to novel treatments for cancer and other afflictions.

The dedication ceremony will be held at 3:30 pm on January 26, 2010 in the auditorium of the Denney Conference Center on the SFBR campus. Members of the media interested in attending this event can do so by calling Joe Carey, SFBR’s vice president for public affairs at 210-258-9437.

SFBR is one of the world’s leading independent biomedical research institutions dedicated to advancing health worldwide through innovative biomedical research. Located on a 200-acre campus on the northwest side of San Antonio, Texas, SFBR partners with hundreds of researchers and institutions around the world, targeting advances in the fight against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, psychiatric disorders, problems of pregnancy, AIDS, hepatitis, malaria, parasitic infections and a host of other infectious diseases.