Markls Motivated to Get Research Started

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Barry and Sharon Markl were happy with their decision to create a charitable remainder trust that would benefit oncology research at SDSU's College of Pharmacy. Instead of waiting for the trust to kick in, they pledged additional funds for 10 years to jumpstart what would become the Markl Faculty Scholar in Cancer Research.

In the fall of 2009, Barry and Sharon Markl were happy with their decision to create a charitable remainder trust that would benefit oncology research at SDSU's College of Pharmacy.

Later on, they realized that the research would not start until they both passed away, before the trust's proceeds went to the College of Pharmacy. Instead of waiting for the trust to kick in, they pledged additional funds for 10 years to jumpstart what would become the Markl Faculty Scholar in Cancer Research. Because of the commitment of those additional funds, Dean Dennis Hedge was able to start the search for the research scientist that would best fit SDSU.

Once they made the pledge, Markl, a former Walgreen executive, estimates that it took more than a year to find the right researcher for the position.

On Nov. 3, 2014, the College welcomed genome scholar Wenfeng An to the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

"Patience in the selection process" by Dean Hedge was truly a virtue in getting such a highly qualified individual, Markl said. He believes Dr. An's credentials make him a perfect fit for the College of Pharmacy.

When they set up the endowment, the Markls, both 1968 grads, insisted that it be used for cancer research. Both of their mothers are cancer survivors.

That request played right into one of the College's strengths as faculty members were already working in the Translational Cancer Research Center, a state-funded effort in conjunction with Sanford Health researchers.

An's research opened new fields at SDSU as he works with mouse models to study long interspersed elements Type 1 (L1) that represent 17 percent of the human genome. When the elements go awry, they can kill the cell-cytotoxicity-or mutagenize the genome. Both processes have been known to cause cancer and other diseases.

Dean Dennis Hedge calls the creation of the endowed position "transformational" for the College of Pharmacy.

"This will enhance not only the opportunity to have a distinguished scholar in the classroom and the research laboratory, but also to develop and encourage creation of intellectual property and economic development in the state of South Dakota," Hedge said. "Securing faculty with such talent will make us very attractive to prospective students."

The position will continue to attract top faculty to the College of Pharmacy, Hedge said, because it provides funds to enhance the position's salary, supplement operational expenses and equipment, provide start-up funds and a facility improvement budget, support travel expenses and provide funding for graduate students, post-doc fellows and support staff.

Markl has met An twice and has watched a presentation about his research. Markl said he was impressed by the presentation and even more impressed by the news he got in April. That's when Markl learned that during An's short time at SDSU, he has already secured $1.4 million in grant funding for his research.

"From my perspective, these grants were not even anticipated," Markl said. "But it shows that there could be other opportunities out there for other colleges at SDSU to take advantage."

"This will enhance not only the opportunity to have a distinguished scholar in the classroom and the research laboratory, but also to develop and encourage creation of intellectual property and economic development in the state of South Dakota.  Securing faculty with such talent will make us very attractive to prospective students."    > Dennis Hedge


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