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DNA Comes Alive in Lights: Penn Medicine's Basser Research Center for BRCA Unveils 15-Foot Hanging Sculpture of Cancer-Related Gene

Large-Scale Sculpture Celebrates Hope for Patients and Families Carrying BRCA Mutations

PHILADELPHIA, March 14, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- On Wednesday, the University of Pennsylvania's Basser Research Center for BRCA  formally unveiled "Homologous Hope," a new sculpture suspended from the glass atrium in the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. The large-scale piece was created especially for the Basser Research Center for BRCA by the New York-based internationally renowned artist Mara G. Haseltine, and is positioned to greet visitors as they enter.

“Homologous Hope” uses LED lights to illustrate how a healthy cell repairs DNA that causes breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancers. Image courtesy of Dan Burke Photography.

Created in a ribbon-diagram formation, the sculpture illustrates how a healthy cell repairs DNA that causes breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancers. It is an accurate depiction of the part of the BRCA2 gene that is responsible for DNA repair. The BRCA2 gene is crucial in the process of DNA repair. The repair occurs in three stages, as illustrated by the use of purple and green LED lights within portions of the piece. The sculpture celebrates the hope that the Basser Research Center – the first and only comprehensive BRCA-focused center of its kind -- is giving to countless families and their loved ones. Generous gifts totaling $30 million from University of Pennsylvania alumni Jon and Mindy Gray established the Basser Research Center in 2012 and earlier this year launched an external grants program.

From a distance, it may be difficult to grasp the enormity of Homolgous Hope and the various components involved in its creation, but the full-scale piece took nearly three months to create. Key features of the sculpture include:

  • Nearly 560 pounds of carbon fiber twisted into three separate pieces that together form the 15'x6'x12' piece
  • Roughly 600 programmable LED lights
  • A stainless steel ring weighing nearly 400 pounds from which the sculpture is suspended

Located within Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center, the multi-disciplinary team of physicians and scientists in the Basser Research Center for BRCA aim to use cutting edge research in basic and clinical sciences to advance the care of individuals living with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. In 2012, Mindy and Jon Gray gave a $25 million gift to establish the Basser Center in honor of Mindy's sister, Faith Basser, who passed away at the age of 44 of ovarian cancer. Recently, the Grays committed an additional $5 million gift to launch an external grants program to expand the center's mission by funding innovative BRCA-related research at other institutions across the world.

Homologous Hope was installed in the Perelman Center over a period of six weeks, and took four days to be lifted from the ground.

Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 17 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $392 million awarded in the 2013 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania -- recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; Chester County Hospital; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2013, Penn Medicine provided $814 million to benefit our community.


From left: Susan Getz, Stacey Sager, Jon Gray, Mindy Gray, Mara Haseltine, Susan Domchek, MD, Ralph Muller, Chi V. Dang, MD, PhD, Shari Potter, and Len Potter

Related Links:
Basser Research Center for BRCA
Mara G. Haseltine
Perelman School of Medicine

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SOURCE Penn Medicine

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