The founder of Nine West Group Inc. and his wife yesterday gave the University of Pennsylvania a $50 million gift to support a new eight-story biomedical-research center.

The gift from Jerome and Anne Fisher is the second largest ever to Penn's health system and will help in the growing field of translational medicine, which accelerates the conversion of laboratory discoveries into medical therapies for patients.

The Anne and Jerome Fisher Translational Research Center is scheduled to open in 2010 at 3400 Civic Center Blvd. on the university's West Philadelphia campus. The 400,000-square-foot building will be next to Penn's two new outpatient-care facilities that are to open this year and in 2009.

The capital gift is the largest yet in the university's $3.5 billion fund-raising campaign, of which more than half has been raised.

Jerome Fisher, also chairman emeritus of Nine West, a White Plains, N.Y.-based women's shoe company that is a division of Jones Apparel Group Inc., is a 1953 graduate of Penn's Wharton School. He has grandchildren who are Penn alumni, and both Fisher and his wife have been active at Penn for years.

A professorship in hematology and oncology named in honor of the Fishers' daughter, Jodi Fisher, is also part of the donation.

"All of us at the University of Pennsylvania are enormously grateful to Anne and Jerome for this incredibly generous and transformational gift which will further position Penn at the forefront of bench-to-bedside medicine," Penn president Amy Gutmann said in a prepared statement.

"We are especially pleased to be able to make a contribution that will impact advances in health care, something which touches everyone's life," Jerome Fisher said in a prepared statement.

Fisher first worked in his family's shoe factory and opened his own factory in 1958. He founded Nine West in 1977 and took the company public in 1993. Nine West has become a worldwide brand for women's footwear and accessories.

The Fishers' previous gifts to Penn total more than $14 million and helped to renovate two other buildings on campus, the Fisher Hassenfeld College House and the Anne and Jerome Fisher Fine Arts Library. They also helped establish the Fisher Program in Management and Technology and the Anne Fisher Graduate Fellowship, which provides financial aid for graduate fine-arts students.

Anne Fisher served on the board of overseers for the Graduate School of Fine Arts, now known as the School of Design, from 1992 to 2002, and in 1999 was awarded the Dean's Medal in Landscape and Architecture.

Jerome Fisher served on Wharton's Undergraduate Executive Board and Board of Overseers from 1992 to 2004. In addition, he was a university trustee from 1996 to 2000. He also has been a member of Penn Medicine's board of trustees since 2006 and is an honorary emeritus trustee of the university.

Contact staff writer Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693 or ssnyder@phillynews.com.