Donors dedicate biomedical engineering lab in son’s memory


Through the Gary and Connie Kunis Foundation, donors Gary Kunis ’73, LHD ’02, and Connie Wong are advancing pathbreaking cancer research at Binghamton University.

Their son, who graduated with a bioengineering degree from University of Rochester, died of brain cancer at age 33. In 2018, Kunis and Wong established the Douglas Hsu Memorial Scholarship in Biomedical Engineering to support first-year students in Watson College. Now, they have expanded their support to further honor their son’s memory and foster biomedical engineering research that could help combat the disease.

In recognition of their generosity, Binghamton has named a lab in the Biotechnology Building as the Douglas Hsu Research Laboratory. A dedication was held Oct. 16.

Their support provides for the purchase of crucial equipment and other items related to the research conducted in the lab, which includes developing therapeutic cancer vaccines through a genome-editing technology that converts a patient’s cancer cells into vaccines that mobilize their own immune systems to eliminate tumors.

“Biotechnology was something so dear to his heart, and that’s why we’re very lucky to have this opportunity to dedicate this lab to our son,” Wong said at the dedication.

President Harvey Stenger thanked Kunis and Wong for their substantial support of Binghamton, which also includes other scholarships, including for women in technology; the Seymour Kunis Media Core in the Engineering and Science Building at the Innovative Technologies Complex; and the Kunis Networking and Computer Systems Laboratory in the Engineering Building. They also have made significant gifts to support the Binghamton University Art Museum and other endeavors.

“We’re deeply grateful to Gary and Connie for their support not only for Watson College but for the entire University,” Stenger said. “Thanks to them, the Department of Biomedical Engineering will be able to purchase state-of-the-art equipment that will enable faculty and graduate students to pursue the most innovative research in this field and, more importantly, add to people’s health and well-being for generations to come.”

Watson College Dean Krishnaswami “Hari” Srihari discussed how Kunis has served as a key advisor for the college’s strategic growth. While at Boeing in the 1980s, he led the creation and rollout of a large regional network that formed the initial internet environment, and he was responsible for designing the NASA Program Support Network and numerous computer networks for the Department of Defense. He later helped to build Cisco Systems from a small startup into the world’s largest networking technology company.

“Gary and Connie have been an integral part of Watson for many, many years now,” Srihari said, “and my hope is that they continue to be a part of Watson College and our campus for many, many years to come.”

Distinguished Professor Kaiming Ye, chair of Watson’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, also leads the Hsu lab. In addition to cancer vaccines, Ye and his team are collaborating with cancer molecular biologists at the Fox Chase Cancer Institute in Philadelphia to develop tumor-on-a-chip technology to pinpoint the mechanisms governing the metastasis of pancreatic cancers. They also have been working with researchers at the SUNY Upstate Medical University to use artificial intelligence for early cancer diagnosis.

“When I met Gary and Connie for the first time, it was supposed to be a brief visit, but we ended up in an hour-long discussion,” Ye said. “When I introduced our research projects, Connie started to ask a lot of questions, and later I understood that they have very personal reasons to ask those questions.”

Wong said she and Kunis will continue to support projects at Watson College and Binghamton University that help students succeed and improve the quality of human life.

“Every single trip when I come back to Binghamton, I see progress, I see more faculty, I see more students, and they’re so energetic,” she said. “This school is part of our family.”


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