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Former Eli Lilly Executive August 'Gus' Watanabe Honored for Career Achievements, Support to Rose-Hulman

April 19, 2011

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology has recognized the career accomplishments of Dr. August "Gus" Watanabe, former executive vice president of science and technology for Eli Lilly & Company, by installing a commemorative plaque in Moench Hall.

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  Honoring Life Sciences Leader: Helping unveil the plaque honoring Dr. August "Gus" Watanabe's contributions to the life sciences and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology were (from left) his wife, Peg; James Baumgardt, former Eli Lilly executive and former president of the Guidant Foundation; Molly Gillam, senior applied biology major; and Lee Waite, head of the Department of Applied Biology and Biomedical Engineering.

The plaque honors Watanabe for his support in establishing Rose-Hulman's Lilly-Guidant Applied Life Science Research Program. He played a major influence in providing the scope and range of the research program for undergraduate science and engineering students, according to James Baumgardt, former executive director of business development for Lilly and former president of the Guidant Foundation.
 
"Gus was a visionary who could see how Rose-Hulman could play an instrumental role in the biological sciences and biomedical engineering," Baumgardt stated. "He would be very proud of the growth in Rose-Hulman's applied biology and biomedical engineering program and the high quality of its graduates."
 
Watanabe was a renowned physician, researcher and professor who led research and development at Lilly for nearly a decade, and was a pioneer in the study of the cellular mechanics of the heart. He was a member of Lilly's Board of Directors from 1996 to 2003. He joined the Indianapolis-based company in 1990, and held several executive positions in the company's research and development component prior to assuming the role as President of Lilly Research Laboratories in 1994.
 
During his tenure as its head, the Lilly research and development organization more than doubled in staff as Watanabe recruited a number of the world's top biomedical researchers to the company. Under his guidance, Lilly launched 11 important new pharmaceutical products and, upon his retirement, Watanabe left the company well positioned with a rich pipeline of innovative drugs in development.
 
Watanabe supported the establishment of Rose-Hulman's Lilly Applied Life Sciences Research Center in 1994, with a five-year $125,000 grant, to encourage faculty and students to investigate problems and pursue projects in the life sciences. The center provided a critical component to encourage the establishment of the Department of Applied Biology and Biomedical Engineering. In 2001, the initial grant was renewed and expanded to $150,000 through assistance from the Guidant Foundation and the program was renamed the Lilly-Guidant Foundation Applied Life Sciences Research Center to reflect that partnership.

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Remembering A Legend: A plaque located in Moench Hall on the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology campus commemorates the role Dr. August "Gus" Watanabe played in helping establish the Lilly-Guidant Applied Life Science Research Program.   

"Dr. Watanabe played a crucial role in establishing the hands-on and research qualities that have been an important part in Rose-Hulman's applied biology and biomedical engineering program," said Molly Gillam, a senior applied biology major from Lafayette who has completed several research projects during her undergraduate career. "Dr. Watanabe continues to serve as a role model for all of us to pave a path of scientific discovery that benefits others."
 
Following his retirement from Lilly, Watanabe remained active in the biomedical field, until his death on June 9, 2009. He served as chairman of BioCrossroads, co-founder of Marcadia Biotech, partner in Twilight Venture Partners, and a director of Ambrx, Endocyte, QuatRx, and Kalypsys. He was also a senior advisor to Frazier Healthcare Ventures. He also remained active in the community, serving as a director of the Regenstrief Foundation, Christel House International, and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
 
The mission of Rose-Hulman's Department of Applied Biology and Biomedical Engineering is to educate, challenge and support students in a multidisciplinary environment so they will be prepared to lead in the fields of biology and engineering. Biomedical engineering integrates concepts from engineering, mathematics, computer science, the natural sciences and medicine with the ultimate goal of improving human health and quality of life. It leads to careers in designing artificial joints and organs, designing computer systems to monitor patients or designing new medical imaging systems.
 
Find out more about Rose-Hulman's Department of Applied Biology and Biomedical Engineering here.