David and Connie Helwig, both 1973 UD graduates, committed a multimillion gift to launch the Institute for Engineering Driven Health at UD.

Transformational gift from David and Connie Helwig will establish UD’s new Institute for Engineering Driven Health

With rapid changes in medicine and technology setting the stage for a new era in healthcare, the University of Delaware is building on its ever-growing reputation for innovative approaches to grand challenges by creating the Institute for Engineering Driven Health.

Launch of the institute is made possible by a multimillion dollar commitment through Delaware First: The Campaign for the University of Delaware from David and Connie Helwig, both 1973 graduates of the UD’s College of Engineering and Lerner College of Business and Economics, respectively. The Institute for Engineering Driven Health is led by the College of Engineering in partnership with other units across the University, and will focus on the discovery, development and commercialization of technologies to significantly advance healthcare.

The University is uniquely poised to leverage its existing interdisciplinary strengths, talented faculty and cutting-edge facilities. In a little more than the last decade alone, UD has established the Department of Biomedical Engineering and built the Science Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus. STAR Campus is home to state-of-the-art research facilities like the Tower at STAR and the Ammon Pinizzotto Biopharmaceutical Innovation Center, industrial collaborators like Chemours, Bloom Energy and SevOne as well as cutting edge institutes including the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL), the Delaware Biotechnology Institute and the Data Science Institute.

Leveraging these existing assets, the Institute for Engineering Driven Health will advance translational research in areas such as diagnostics and treatment, gene therapy and manufacturing and rehabilitation and mobility.

The gift from the Helwigs will provide foundational funding for the institute to hire key staff including the director, further develop its areas of focus and inspire additional support for impactful research and development.

“It is so incredibly exciting to launch this new institute that will further establish the University as a national leader in identifying and developing successful, sustainable healthcare solutions,” University President Dennis Assanis said. “We are truly grateful to David and Connie for investing in this innovative initiative that will address immediate societal challenges in the region, across the country and around the world. Their generous commitment demonstrates their continued confidence in our faculty, leadership and students.”

In the world of healthcare, the need for more and faster access to life-saving medicines and options for treatment continues to grow. Engineering approaches to these challenges prove to be successful in creating cutting-edge, efficient solutions.

“Engineers apply design processes to address the world’s most vexing problems, while being particularly adept at moving from ideation and research through to application and commercialization,” said Levi Thompson, dean of the College of Engineering (COE). “The new institute will expand and enhance the exciting work already taking place, positioning UD to have an even greater impact on critical areas in healthcare. Our researchers envision smart nanobots that are capable of targeted therapies and minimally invasive procedures, brain-machine interfaces that wirelessly connect the brain with external mobility-assistance devices and gene therapies to cure the most debilitating diseases afflicting humans.”

Researchers in the Institute for Engineering Driven Health will work with faculty, students and staff from across the University, aligning and leveraging their expertise and innovative work around a common purpose within a solid infrastructure.

As a proud and successful UD engineering alumnus, a member of its advisory council and a part of the University’s President Leadership Council, David Helwig has seen firsthand the evolution of COE as well as the University as a whole throughout years. His strong connection and involvement with the college and University was the driving force behind his latest gift.

“The College of Engineering and the University continue to inspire confidence, change and innovation,” said Helwig. “Connie and I are humbled by the role we can play in bringing new partnerships and initiatives to life through the institute — not only enabling the college to take a leadership role in providing new educational and teaching experiences for UD faculty, staff and students, but also creating and implementing necessary changes in the ever-important healthcare industry.”

The gift to establish the institute is the latest gift in a long history of dedicated support from the Helwigs. Past contributions to COE include the Helwig Mechanical Engineering Fellowship, which provides funding for graduate students as well as gifts for a professorship and support that provides students with global opportunities.

“My undergraduate experience at the University provided an excellent foundation for my lifelong pursuits, teaching me that focus, discipline, technical proficiency and hard work were most valuable when pursued in the context of teamwork, family values and friendships,” Helwig said. “We are thrilled to be in the position to support the further extension of the University’s capabilities in this essential area.”

About the Campaign

Delaware First: The Campaign for the University of Delaware was publicly launched on Nov. 10, 2017. The comprehensive engagement and fundraising campaign unites Blue Hens across the nation to accelerate UD’s mission of cultivating tomorrow’s leaders, creating solutions to grand challenges, inspiring innovations and transforming lives. The united effort will help create an extraordinary student experience at UD and extend its impact on the region and the world.

Building on the record-breaking support and generosity evidenced by the Campaign, on Oct. 7, 2021, the University announced the extension of Delaware First with a $1 billion goal to further fuel change and innovation for students, faculty, campus and the world.

For more information, call 302-831-2104 or email campaign-info@udel.edu.

Article by Christine E. Serio-Shively
(featured on UDaily, 12/15/2021)