Sealy & Smith Smith Foundation Gives $3.35M to UTMB for COVID-19 Research

GALVESTON, Texas – The Sealy & Smith Foundation of Galveston has awarded a $3.35 million gift to the University of Texas Medical Branch to support research focused on a portfolio of studies to develop medical countermeasures to fight the COVID-19 virus.

UTMB is well-known around the world for its expertise in conducting ground-breaking research on emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases and developing therapeutics and vaccines that can treat and prevent them. The gift from Sealy & Smith will enable a collaboration of the university’s most noted scientists to work together concurrently on a broad range of studies and move quickly to advance promising vaccines and therapies.

“If anyone can find a way to defeat this virus, it’s UTMB’s top-notch researchers,” said Dr. Ben Raimer, president ad interim of UTMB.  “This generous gift from the Sealy & Smith Foundation will enable our dedicated team of researchers to accelerate their work and share with the global scientific community what they learn about how this virus infects and moves through the body, while also focusing on potential antiviral and antibody therapies that can impede virus replication.  We’re extremely thankful for the Foundation’s generosity.”

John Kelso, chair of The Sealy & Smith Foundation Board of Trustees, said it was essential to support “some of the world’s most-gifted researchers.”  He added, “UTMB scientists were instrumental in leading the fight against Ebola and Zika.  We’re proud to provide the funding so that these world renowned UTMB researchers have enough firepower against COVID-19.”

Dr. Jim Le Duc, director of the Galveston National Laboratory, noted that all labs and personnel at the GNL and other research facilities have been focused solely on COVID-19 work since early March, when research on all other pathogens being studied in the national lab was put on hold to throw the full expertise of the facility on this national emergency.

“The Sealy & Smith Foundation’s gift allows us to amplify our efforts to support not only our own work, but to assist our colleagues throughout the scientific community with the evaluation of promising vaccines and treatments,” said Le Duc.

The Sealy & Smith Foundation was created in 1922 to provide health care for the people of Galveston Island.  Since its inception, nearly 100 years ago, the Foundation has provided gifts to UTMB totaling close to $1 billion.  Most recently, the Foundation funded, in large part, the Jennie Sealy Hospital, the renovation of the John Sealy Hospital, several endowments and distinguished chairs, and a host of state-of-the-art patient care and laboratory equipment.