HSCI grant programs support early-stage research

HSCI’s unique grant programs provide early-stage funding for scientists in diverse areas of stem cell research that are aligned with HSCI’s mission. Seed grants support both junior and senior investigators who have difficulty in obtaining funding to support new ideas. Such grants are, by definition, high risk, but in HSCI’s experience several have proved critical in advancing the field. More importantly, these grants would not be possible without generous philanthropic support.

Sternlicht Director’s Fund awards given to graduate students in diabetes stem cell research

This HSCI special grant program was initiated by a generous gift from Mimi Reichert Sternlicht and Barry S. Sternlicht, MBA ‘86. After a rigorous application process, grants are awarded to promising graduate students conducting stem cell research on diabetes. To be considered, students must have two to four years remaining in their program, be nominated by a faculty member and have financial need. The program provides grants of up to $85,000 each year toward the recipients’ graduate program costs (tuition, fees and stipend). Awardees present their research in an annual meeting with the Sternlicht family. The 2007 Sternlicht Fellows, announced on November 1, are Richard Sherwood, Catia Verbeke and Christopher “Kit” Rodolpha.

Farkas family steps forward

Andrew (AB ’82) and Sandi Farkas posed a startlingly simple question to Doug Melton, coscientific director of HSCI and a member of the HSCI Executive Committee. It was: “What do you need?” Melton’s answer was also simple; he pointed to the need to support junior faculty. The couple responded by making a generous gift to fund the work of young scientists who show promise as future Harvard faculty members. Made in honor of Andrew Farkas’s 25th Reunion Class, the gift was matched in part by Harvard’s Professorship Challenge, a university- wide faculty support initiative. Those who know the couple say their enthusiasm for HSCI can be attributed to their awareness of how stem cell research could revolutionize the scope and pace of science research and health care. The Farkas family, like others, is eager to help advance this work.

Millipore Foundation supports HSCI grant program

Established more than 20 years ago by the Millipore Corporation (Billerica, Mass.), the Millipore Foundation furthers innovation and research in the life sciences industry. This past September, Millipore made a gift to HSCI as part of a scientific collaboration with Harvard to fulfill the promise of stem cell biology. In alignment with Millipore’s corporate mission, this funding will support HSCI’s Seed Grant Program that focuses on early-stage, high-risk research projects at the cutting edge of the stem cell field. Millipore is a life sciences company that provides technologies and tools and services for the bioscience research and biopharmaceutical manufacturing industry.

Singer Family Foundation steps forward with seed grants

The Singer Family Foundation has funded two Harvard Stem Cell Institute seed grants in human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research for the 2007- 2009 funding cycle. Each grant consists of $90,000 annually for two consecutive years of research currently not eligible for Federal funding. The Singer family was drawn to HSCI for its success at uniting experts at Harvard and its affiliated hospitals and, perhaps more importantly, for enabling promising young investigators to contribute to the pace of research progress. Selections were made in Spring 2007. Awardees Dr. Richard Gregory and Dr. Dieter Egli are profiled in this issue. 

Bill Bowes fills stem cell science funding gap

Bill Bowes, MBA ’52, has a keen eye for untapped excellence. A successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist, he was a pioneer in the promotion of biotechnology advances by forming Amgen, now a company with $15 billion in revenue. Bowes recognizes that scientists have to answer new questions and is highly aware of the funding gap that exists for new ideas, especially in stem cell science. To help fill that gap, Bowes gave a gift to Harvard this past summer to establish the Bowes Acceleration Fund at HSCI to provide critical funding that will enable important projects to advance to their next stage or key milestone. His gift honored Harvard Business School and was recognized as part of his class’s 55th reunion.

Sandy Kurtzig gave a gift for a two-year project to support the creation and study of human embryonic stem cells with a diabetic genotype, a step along the road of developing cellular therapies for type I diabetes. In addition to funding this highly complex project, Kurtzig’s gift will also support the Diabetes Think Tank, an international gathering of experts to brainstorm on key issues in the field and discuss research milestones and progress. Kurtzig is a graduate of the Harvard Business School Owner/President Management Program.

BD Biosciences (San Jose, Calif.) is the sponsor of the 2007–08 HSCI Seminar Series. Based at the MGH Center for Regenerative Medicine, the seminar series brings outside speakers to the HSCI community to foster learning and collaboration. BD Biosciences is a major producer of tools for life sciences researchers that include flow cytometers, cell imaging systems, monoclonal antibodies, research reagents, diagnostic assays, and tools to help grow tissues and cells. Close to 20 talks are planned this year. Some of the leaders in the field who will be coming to HSCI include Mahendra Rao, Invitrogen Corporation (Carlsbad, Calif.); Arnold Kaplan, Case Western Reserve University; Eric Olson, University of Texas Southwestern; Thomas Zwaka, Baylor College; Rick Young, MIT; and Tony DeTomaso, Stanford University.