Pennie Keene feels so strongly about the work under way at HudsonAlpha, she is spearheading a women’s fundraising luncheon to support the institute’s efforts.  Keene, a vice president of investments at UBS, shared her excitement for the event to be held at noon on May 4 at the Huntsville Museum of Art.

Q: What do you envision for the upcoming luncheon?
A: My hope is to create a setting where women I know and admire can enjoy a delicious luncheon and a beautiful art exhibit, while hearing the latest breakthroughs in genomic research.  Everyone is touched by someone in their lives who has suffered from cancer or another disease. I want these friends – and their friends – to hear about all the incredible things going on in Huntsville at HudsonAlpha.  We will dine in the Loretta Spencer Hall located in the beautiful new Davidson Center for the Arts.  Both Loretta Spencer and Dorothy Davidson have done many great things for this community, and both will be in attendance. The former mayor will actually say a few words about HudsonAlpha, which opened during her third term in office.  I am excited to see a room full of energetic and enthusiastic women come together. By just coming to the luncheon, guests will be showing how much they care about one of Alabama’s fastest growing assets.

Q: What will the luncheon support?
A: Each guest is encouraged to make a $50 donation and all proceeds will support local teachers and high school students through two HudsonAlpha programs: Genetic Updates for Alabama Classrooms and BioTrain.  GTAC brings high school science teachers from across the state to HudsonAlpha each summer for a two-week teacher academy.  They learn the latest in genetics and go home with about $1000 worth of reusable supplies.

BioTrain is a summer internship program that gives high school through graduate students opportunities to work alongside HudsonAlpha researchers and biotech professionals at associate companies.  This fundraiser will support kids and educators in our own community who will participate in the programs. Both programs provide phenomenal experiences, giving real-world applications to academic learning.

Q: Why is this fundraiser important to you?
A: Tom, my husband and business partner, and I were aware of the institute’s presence, but it wasn’t until a good friend invited us to last year’s spring benefit that we understood the magnitude of HudsonAlpha and its impact on Huntsville. We sat with Dr. Neil Lamb, the director of educational outreach, who instantly caught our attention with his passion, knowledge and enthusiasm.  We signed up for Biotech 101 last fall and took Biotech 201 earlier this spring.  The progress being made in biotechnology is so exciting.  After a few visits to HudsonAlpha, you realize what these brilliant scientists are accomplishing.

Q: What do you believe HudsonAlpha means to North Alabama?
A: HudsonAlpha is another reason Huntsville keeps popping up on so many national "best of" lists.  The institute is attracting the best minds to Madison County. We heard Governor Bob Riley say [at the 2010 Spring Benefit for Neurological Disorders] that this part of the state is home to "entrepreneurs on steroids."  Just look at the companies that have already spun out of HudsonAlpha labs.

Q: What will be different about the event?
A: The Keene group manages and invests money for a living, but the only investment we will talk about at the luncheon will be the incredible investment our guests can make in HudsonAlpha.  We will serve lunch, hear a terrific speaker (Lamb), take in the Helen Turner: A Woman’s Point of View exhibit.  There will be goodie bags filled with trinkets from our investment partners and door prizes donated by local merchants. We suggest that our guests make a $50 tax-deductible donation at the door.

If you are interested in attending the event, please call Heather Saint at 256-690-5505.  Again, it will be held Wednesday, May 4, at the Huntsville Museum of Arts new Davidson Center for the Arts from noon – 1:30.