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Zigang Dong looks at a transparent sheet with scientific data on it.

Zigang Dong's research focuses on cancer development and prevention.

Dong named McKnight professor

Hormel Institute head lauded for his commitment to cancer prevention research, education and service

By Jim Thorp

Aug. 23, 2006

The University of Minnesota named cancer researcher Zigang Dong the McKnight Presidential Professor in Cancer Prevention at the Aug. 22 groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Hormel Institute.

"Through his remarkable scientific career, his exemplary leadership and his commitment to establishing the university as a world-class institution of research and learning, Dr. Dong has exemplified the qualities of a McKnight Professor and is poised to help the university forge new frontiers in cancer research," said University president Robert Bruininks.

About the Hormel Institute

* Established as an independent research arm of the University and located in Austin, Minn.

* Founded by the Hormel Foundation and the U's Board of Regents in November 1942

* Focuses on biological research in five major areas: biophysics, cancer biology, cellular and molecular biology, membrane biochemistry and nutrition and metabolism.

* Funded in large part via grants from the Hormel Foundation and the National Institutes of Health

* Employs 80 people, from researchers and lab techs to administrative personnel and maintenance workers

Dong has served as the chief of the cellular and molecular biology research section at the Hormel Institute, where he was appointed executive director and awarded the Hormel/Knowlton Professorship in 2001. He did his post-doctoral work at the National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute before coming to the Hormel Institute in 1995.

Dong's research focuses on cancer development and prevention. He recently published a surprising finding in the area of cellular suicide, in which a protein that normally functions to repair severed DNA molecules will, in some cases, join forces with another protein to destroy the DNA.

Dong will oversee an unprecedented expansion of the Hormel Institute--a $20 million construction and renovation project that is expected to triple the institute's capacity and create 100 new, high-paying jobs for area workers.

The McKnight Presidential Professorships recognize the University's distinguished faculty. This award has been made possible by a $15 million gift from the McKnight Foundation.

"Zigang Dong demonstrates the qualities in teaching, research and service that the University of Minnesota values most highly, and we are proud to offer him this prestigious award," Bruininks said.