Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
Nobel Prize winner Mario Capecchi will work with untenured scientists as part of a $2 million gift for biological and genetic research.

The George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation has established two $1 million endowed chairs in honor of University of Utah geneticist Mario R. Capecchi, Ph.D., winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

The chairs will give outstanding young researchers in genetics and biology much-needed financial help to launch their careers at the U. The endowment was announced during a gala the U. held in Capecchi's honor Saturday.

"We know that many outstanding young scientists in the years to come will be inspired by the opportunity to occupy these chairs that bear your name," said Spencer F. Eccles, chairman and chief executive officer of the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation and chairman emeritus of Wells Fargo.

The foundation has a long-standing interest in the U. human genetics program and in the work of Capecchi, who is professor and co-chair of human genetics and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. In the mid-1980s, in partnership with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the foundation built, furnished and funded the George and Dolores Eccles Institute of Human Genetics, the building that houses the human genetics program, including Capecchi's office and lab. With its latest gift, the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation has contributed more than $17 million to the U.'s human genetics education and research programs.

These endowed chairs are unique because they will rotate to fund two untenured, junior scientists from the U. and around the world to pursue their research and work alongside Capecchi for three-year periods. Typically, endowed chairs are awarded to senior, tenured faculty. The chairs are in genetics and biology because Capecchi's first appointment at the U., after leaving the faculty of Harvard Medical School in 1973, was in the biology department. He retains that appointment as well.