BALTIMORE, MD – Prominent Pittsburgh philanthropist and Greek-American John Rangos, Sr. was honored at Johns Hopkins University on May 17-18 to celebrate a decade of progress at the highly successful innovation hub that he was instrumental in initiating. In 2008, city, state, and federal officials celebrated the opening of the John G. Rangos Sr. Life Sciences Building, which was the first building in Johns Hopkins’ Science + Technology Park, a mixed-use redevelopment of 88 acres adjacent to the Johns Hopkins University medical campus and hospital in East Baltimore. Today, more than 40 life science companies and research institutions have located there to partner with Johns Hopkins in commercializing scientific discovery.
An Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, Rangos is also founder and former chairman of International Orthodox Christian Charities, which the Rangos Foundation actively supports, and was a fundraising chairman for UNICEF.
Rangos was unable to attend the events, but family members attended on his behalf, including his son John Rangos Jr., the Honorable Judge Jill Rangos- wife of John, Jr., his daughter, Jenica Rangos Welch, and her husband Jason Welch, and two of the four grandchildren- John Rangos III and Virginia Rangos.
Dr. Myron Weisfeldt, medical consultant, Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures, a professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University and a friend for many years of Mr. Rangos spoke with The National Herald about the events in Baltimore and the remarkable progress that has been made in just a decade since the John G. Rangos Sr. Life Sciences Building opened.
He told TNH, “Johns Hopkins has always been skeptical and somewhat against faculty becoming involved in companies to promote health care discoveries unlike Stanford and MIT where that has gone on for years, but Johns Hopkins as a university has more research funding than any other university in the United States and obviously we’ve done a lot of research that has resulted in improvements in human health but we’ve never had a program to enhance that connection between faculty members doing discovery with practical ideas about human health and the businesses, venture, and practical aspects of developing a product or drug and bring them into human use and that changed 5 years ago with a new dean and a new vision for the university with a change of university president to the point where it was very clear, even 10 years ago that this was going to be something that would be very important for Johns Hopkins to have and succeed. As a symbol of that change in attitude the Rangos Building was conceived of as a building that could have both faculty and start-up companies in the same building so investigators could very easily go from their basic laboratory to the company, the company could come to their scientists and talk with them, there would be an exchange and education of the two groups about each other and this would all be developed for Johns Hopkins within the Rangos Building and the reason why we’re celebrating at ten years is because that has really happened.
“This building,” Dr. Weisfeldt said, “is a major building with lots of laboratory research space and infrastructure for doing research but also wonderful infrastructure for the development of companies many of whom started there and some of which have grown and moved out of the Rangos Building. Still within the Rangos Building there are a number of growing, very successful business enterprises that have a relationship to faculty within the Rangos Building or within the Johns Hopkins community. And those efforts, along with retooling of the entire business infrastructure of Hopkins has resulted in the tremendous growth of patents and licensing and revenue and success for Hopkins of developing its technology for human use. And the intent of the tenth anniversary is to, of course, honor Mr. Rangos before it was too late as a 90-year-old person who is totally with it, totally aware of everything, understands everything, and we thought it would be wonderful to bring him back here to be sure that he saw what his $10 million gift has really produced.”
“Mr. Rangos has made gifts to many institutions,” Dr. Weisfeldt said, “generally for research purposes. Duchesne University in Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh, each one has received significant support for research programs. This is a man who made money in waste paper and waste management who has gotten very significant respect for science and the value of science and the value of mating science with American businesses and that was really the intent of the Rangos Building.”
He added, “Within the building in a very prominent location next to the major conference room, there is a plaque with an inscription which reads ‘The John G. Rangos Sr. Family Foundation Building- This building brings together the strength of industry and basic medical science to improve human health.’”
At the event on May 17, Maryland Secretary of Health Robert Neall presented a citation from the Governor Larry Hogan, to honor Rangos. General Ronald Rand- President of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation presented a citation to honor Rangos as well. Dr. Weisfeldt presented a poster with pictures of the building and the plaque as a gift from Johns Hopkins.
On May 18, family and friends heard from scientists in the building about their program and their work and met with a company that has its headquarters in the Rangos Building and heard from the leadership of a technology group about the success that these efforts have brought to gain patents, licenses, and revenue, and obviously to improve human health but the business side of the investment that has been made in Johns Hopkins’ ideas on the basis of all of these efforts.
Personal Genome Diagnostics (PGDX) which started in the Rangos Building and outgrew it, was profiled in the New York Times, among other publications, for developing liquid biopsies, searching the blood of patients at risk for cancer or with cancer and to diagnose the disease by identifying cancer cells in their blood. “That’s the best example and by far the most direct, right out of the Rangos Building,” Dr. Weisfeldt said of the company.
He told TNH that Rangos is “an enthusiast about Greece,” adding that he had traveled to the homeland with Mr. Rangos and with Greek faculty members of Johns Hopkins to build a program with a medical school in Peloponnesos.