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USD Establishes Nolop Institute for Medical Biology with $5 Million Gift

Photo of Neil Nolop and his wife, Hege Ruud Nolop. Neil Nolop and his wife, Hege Ruud Nolop, visited USD on behalf of the Nolop family.

VERMILLION, S.D. – To honor the life and legacy of alumnus Keith Nolop, a medical doctor who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of South Dakota in 1975, his estate has donated $5 million through the USD Foundation to establish the Nolop Institute for Medical Biology.

“This generous gift will greatly enhance the experience of outstanding undergraduate students majoring in medical biology,” said Kaius Helenurm, professor and chair of biology.

Activities supported by the Nolop Institute for Medical Biology include:

  • Four fully-funded academic scholarships for undergraduate students majoring in medical biology who wish to participate in research and plan to attend medical school.
  • Two endowed professorships—the Nolop Distinguished Professorship and the Nolop Professorship—awarded to scientists recognized for their contributions in fundamental or applied medically relevant research who teach in the medical biology program.
  • A fully-equipped Nolop Research Laboratory focused on medically-oriented research.
  • Stipends for three undergraduate researchers through the Nolop Summer Research Scholar Program.
  • Funding for medically-oriented research by undergraduates in the form of support for supplies and student travel to scientific meetings to present results.

“Keith found his way to biology,” said Neil Nolop, Keith’s brother who represented the Nolop family at USD and toured the campus with medical biology students. “When he came here, he really blossomed. The social aspects of the university helped him come out of his shell.”

Neil credited his parents’ strong influence for Keith’s success. “My parents believed that you should work hard, study, be honest. They instilled the work ethic to be the best you can be and that type of attitude permeated to Keith,” he said.

Keith’s brother Bruce, ‘72, also graduated from USD and served as CFO of E*Trade Financial Corporation.

Keith Bradley Nolop, M.D., had a distinguished career of over 25 years in drug development from conception to approval with a focus on allergy, asthma and cancer products. His work included the blockbuster drug Nasonex, a groundbreaking melanoma treatment and highly-engineered cancer therapies. He was the author of over 50 peer-reviewed articles and the recipient of several patents.

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1953, he moved with his family to Mobridge, South Dakota, in 1960. He studied biology at the University of South Dakota, where he was editor of The Volante newspaper and a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior and graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in 1975.

He graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine first in his class and began a career in medical research and drug development, starting with a stint at the University of Louisville. Nolop spent over 11 years with Schering-Plough and 13 years as chief medical officer for three successful biotechnology companies: CoTherix, Plexxikon, and Kite Pharma. His last position was as an independent consultant. He died in May 2016 after a bicycle accident near his home in Pacific Palisades, California.

The Nolop family has also created an endowment at Vanderbilt University that will give preferential treatment to students applying from USD and South Dakota.


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News