In the current issue of Boca Raton magazine, we take a look at some of the amazing research advancements happening at the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter. The 30-acre campus (with another 70-acres available for development in the future) is an independent nonprofit institution focusing on biomedical research in a laboratory setting. With the help of major grants, cutting-edge projects are in development to try to cure diseases like hepatitis C, lymphoma and age-related memory loss.

Now, there is even more amazing news out of Jupiter.

The Esther B. O’Keeffe Charitable Foundation recently made a $2 million donation to The Scripps Research Institute to fund biomedical research and education. The gift is what’s called “unrestricted” meaning it can be used whenever it is needed. The grant will be used to fund special initiatives on the Florida campus. (Scripps Research Institute also has a La Jolla, Calif. campus.) In the past, unrestricted grants have provided funding for “out of the box” research projects and enabled graduate students to study in the institute’s top-ranked Ph.D. program. With this gift, the Esther B. O’Keeffe Charitable Foundation and its trustees become Scripps Florida Founders, an honor given to donors that have made lifetime contributions of $2 million or more to the Jupiter campus.

“We are delighted to contribute to The Scripps Research Institute’s important scientific and educational work,” said Clare O’Keeffe, executive trustee of the foundation. “These efforts are tremendously exciting and we are proud to be part of them.”

This is not the first donation the foundation has made. In the past, the foundation’s contributions have supported innovative research helping to advance breakthroughs in the development of new treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, hearing loss and spinal cord damage.

If the name sounds familiar, it should. The Esther B. O’Keeffe Charitable Foundation was established in 1990 by the late philanthropist Esther B. O’Keeffe, wife of respected surgeon and philanthropist Dr. Arthur O’Keeffe. It supports a variety of health, medical, art and cultural programs in our area, including the Esther B. O’Keeffe Art Gallery, pavilions at Good Samaritan and St. Mary’s Medical Centers, a wing at the Norton Museum of Art and more.

“I know I speak for the entire Scripps community when I wholeheartedly thank the Esther B. O'Keeffe Charitable Foundation,” said Scripps Research President and CEO Michael A. Marletta. “Gifts of this magnitude are transformative and will go directly towards the next generation of discoveries to understand, cure, and treat human disease.”

Scripps scientists in Jupiter were also recently awarded an $8.4 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) which will provide five years of funding to develop new compounds to help prevent relapse in tobacco smokers that try to quit the habit.

“This really is a broad-based, multi-disciplinary team effort,” said Paul Kenny, the study’s program director. “We’ve assembled a team of first-class scientists at Scripps Florida with all the experience necessary to develop novel therapeutics for the treatment of tobacco abuse.”

The new study at Scripps will focus on an entirely new mechanism to help smokers break the habit; a receptor for a specific neuropeptide (short chain of amino acids found in nerve tissue) that, when blocked, significantly decreases the desire for nicotine.

According to the World Health Organization, tobacco smoking kills 5 million people worldwide every year. They estimate that if current trends continue, smoking will become the largest single health problem worldwide by the year 2020. The World Bank estimates that in high-income countries, smoking-related healthcare accounts for between 6 and 15 percent of all health care costs. That’s $160 billion annually.