Up to my 30th reunion at Harvard, I was giving broadly to support the needs and objectives of the University. Since then, I have become more involved in supporting talented researchers and investigators working on solving a problem from different directions. As a result, my giving has become more focused.
When I met Doug Melton at a JDRF [Juvenille Diabetes Research Foundation] event in 2014, I learned his children were both Type I diabetics. Being a diabetic myself, I had been involved in the work of the foundation for several years, and began a conversation with Doug and his work at the HSCI to find a cure for diabetes. I had heard about his work on beta cell replacement before, but after speaking with him I was motivated to help advance his research. It was important to me that Doug should be able to progress the science without financial barriers or restrictions, thereby allowing him to make the right research decisions expeditiously.
I know it will take time to advance the science to see patient benefits. While some of the research solutions are progressing to the clinic, many of the promising developments in this field are still in the research stage. However, progress and protocols are advancing quickly thanks to the collaborative culture amongst researchers across the Greater Boston area. Doug promotes and supports an exceptional environment, keeping people working together to play key roles in moving the science forward — a real tribute to HSCI!
Collaboration is essential if we are going to crack this nut and find a cure for T1D, and I feel that team spirit whenever I visit the labs. Harvard is an incredible place, having the available resources, both financial and intellectual, to solve global health issues like diabetes. It’s hard to find places with an outlook like Harvard, looking not just for immediate results but solutions that will make a real difference over time.
This is such an exciting time in beta cell replacement and immunotherapy. I am glad to be part of it, and honored to be able to support leading investigators and scientists moving the field forward towards new treatments and, eventually, a cure.
I started supporting the Harvard Stem Cell Institute when it was first founded — a time when the federal government had restricted funding for highly promising stem cell research. Doug Melton and David Scadden brought this incredible passion to the research, and Harvard University provided the space — they just needed help to move it forward.
I thought then that we would go through a revolution in the life sciences, and that has absolutely come to pass. Fifteen years ago, “stem cell research” meant to many people, “regenerating replacement parts” for patients, and over this span of time Doug has been able to create functioning pancreatic beta cells from stem cells. Today we’ve witnessed the use of stem cells for a broad range of research, such as the testing of drugs on stem cell-generated tissues that carry disorders. It is incredible that discovering how to redirect stem cells to grow into specialized cells would bring about all these applications no one had ever thought of before.
Research at HSCI has always surprised me, to the point where I’m no longer surprised that I’m being surprised. Given the progress made in just this short time, I believe that stem cell research will continue to flourish. Stem cells are potential — they will change how we think about aging, autoimmune disease, and many other areas. This is already having an impact on medicine, but it’s hard to predict all the different ways stem cells will change health care.
The collaboration across HSCI is unique, and not something you often see in other areas of science. It has a strong culture of breaking down barriers; working across academic labs, hospitals, and companies; and sharing know-how to speed up progress. As the institute has grown, this collaboration has become increasingly important. Supporting HSCI and its ambitious projects has brought one revelation after another, and I am very proud to be a small part of it.