How much does HSCI rely on donations vs. other sources of funding such as government grants?
In FY 2008, HSCI's total annual expenditure reached $16.2 million. Individual and foundation gifts and grants fund the majority of HSCI's research and activities. Funds are used to support promising stem cell research projects that are at too early a stage to qualify for traditional grants, either because of a lack of sufficient supporting data, a time delay in funding availability, or the perceived risk in making an investment in an early stage idea or development. By supporting projects at these critical stages of investigation, HSCI fills a critical gap between concept and long-term support, ensuring that important research can continue along its path to clinical application.
Now that the Federal government has permitted funding for embryonic stem cell research, has the HSCI's need for donor support changed?
The vast majority of HSCI's field-leading embryonic stem cell research depends upon – and will continue to depend upon, the generosity and far-sightedness of private individuals and foundations. While the Obama administration has relaxed some of the Bush funding restrictions, all that means is that our researchers may now compete for limited NIH funding along with all other biomedical researchers doing every kind of NIH research. While our researchers have already begun to take advantage of these new opportunities to apply for NIH funding, there will continue to be a large number of promising research projects that will not be federally funded and that will need the resources that the HSCI can offer in order to continue important work.
HSCI relies on donor support to fund research at the cutting edge of science and medicine. Since a large part of our mission is to accelerate stem cell research at the critical juncture between original concept and government support, donations provide a means to continue our independent granting system that encourages bold new ideas and timely funding. Private donations are the only way to ensure that we can rapidly allocate funding to the most promising projects and assist investigators in getting important work to those stages at which federal and other funding will be able to join in their support.
What support does Harvard University provide?
Harvard provides HSCI with substantial infrastructure support, which allows the Institute to direct its funding to research, education programs, and operations. HSCI is responsible for funding our own scientific investments and operations. The University provides substantial support through its Office of Technology Development, which handles patents, licensing and industry collaborations; the Office for Sponsored Programs, which supports external grants to HSCI; the Harvard Communications Office, for publications and public relations; as well as other groups.
What are HSCI's administrative expenses?
HSCI is in the fortunate position of having many of its administrative services provided by Harvard University, which allows us to keep our administrative costs low while still operating at a very high level of efficiency and effectiveness.
We run a lean organization with under 10% of our budget allocated for administrative expenses. The bulk of that money is used for expenditures relating directly to the support of research, such as project and grants management that leverages our work across our multiple research platforms and disease programs.
How is the rest of the money spent?
Over 90% of our expenditures go directly toward supporting research and our research community through the following programs:
- RESEARCH support:
- Seed Grants
- Core Facilities - Genome Modification, iPS Core, Therapeutic Screening, and other
- Disease Programs - Blood Diseases, Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, Kidney Disease, and Nervous System Diseases
- Fellowship Programs – Clinician Scientist, HSCI/Radcliffe, Sternlicht Diabetes Fellows, etc.
- Industry Research Collaborations
- Junior Faculty projects
- RESEARCH COMMUNITY support:
- Disease Program Think Tanks
- HSCI Symposia
- Seminar Series
- HSCI Summer Undergraduate Internship Program (HIP)
How do you decide which projects should be funded?
The Executive Committee, with the advice of the HSCI Disease Program Heads, determines which projects are the most promising, where the greatest funding needs are, and where an HSCI investment may have the greatest impact. Members of the HSCI Executive Committee are a subset of our Principal Faculty, drawn from the University and the affiliated research institutions and include many of the world's most accomplished stem cell clinicians and scientists. The extensive scientific and clinical expertise of this Committee allows it to make the very best choices for the investment of research dollars on behalf of the HSCI community and our supporters.
The demand for funding is high. For example, each year we receive about 80 applications for Seed Grants and about 350 applications for the Summer Internship Program.
Can I give to a specific program, project, or researcher?
The most effective way to support stem cell research at the HSCI is to contribute to the HSCI General Gift Fund. As described above, the Executive Committee depends on this fund as the resource that allows them to appropriately and quickly fund those projects that have been chosen on the basis of scientific merit, financial need, and disease impact potential.
In a good illustration of how the General Gift Fund can step in at a critical time, HSCI investigator Dario Fauza was provided immediate support for a birth defects project that required additional funding when the FDA requested further experimentation before human trials could begin.
Fauza had been conducting research into a prenatal defect that leaves an opening in the diaphragm, leading to herniation and malformation of developing organs. Typically, a Teflon patch is sewn in, sometimes prenatally, but as the child grows, the patch must be replaced with a larger one. Nearly half of babies don't survive. The bioengineered stem cell patch offers great hope for these children because the cells fill in to replace the tissue and continue to grow during development, obviating further surgery. Fauza had been quite close to clinical trials, but the FDA request instantly added a $500,000 price tag to reaching that point. Within one month, the General Gift Fund was able to provide the additional support, avoiding any further delays in getting this innovative treatment to the clinic.
The General Gift Fund also allows us to respond quickly to the entry of new technologies in the field, and rapidly share that technology across the entire institute through the development and support of core facilities.
In 2005, no HSCI research projects involved the creation and use of iPS (induced pluripotent stem) cells because the technology was not fully-developed. From 2006-2007, multiple HSCI investigators were working on perfecting iPS cell technology as a complement to ESCs (embryonic stem cells). By 2008, HSCI Faculty had published leading papers in the field and created 13 disease-specific iPS cell lines and more since. In the fall of 2008, the HSCI made a significant initial investment in the establishment of an iPS Core Facility to derive IPS cell lines for the benefit of the research community. The rapid timeline seen here, from no investment to an operational core facility, is an example of the importance of having the unrestricted General Gift Fund money available to further the most promising developments as the science advances.
I am considering making a significant investment. What is the first step?
Give us a call. We will be able to bring you up to date on HSCI activities and funding priorities, tell you more about research in specific areas that are of interest to you, and even arrange laboratory visits and opportunities to meet faculty. That's the best way to find out how your contribution can have the greatest impact.
Does a donation have to be "large" to be important?
HSCI welcomes and values all contributions. In fact, donations to HSCI ranging from $10 to $2,000 have come in from individuals from across the US, from Florida to Texas to California, and from across the globe, from Israel to Japan, from individuals who understand the importance of stem cell research, and also know that HSCI is the world's leading center of that work.
We are working on diseases that do or will affect all of us, so your engagement in our work is important to our efforts, both financially and for your show of support of the continued importance of our mission to cure diseases. Each and every contribution matters to our success.
There is an easy and convenient way to contribute online, but you can also give us a call if you have specific questions or requests. We have helped people set up memorial funds, donations to honor life events, and small fundraisers, and are happy to discuss your ideas. Every contribution really does add up and has a significant impact.
What is the Harvard tax ID?
What's the best way to keep in touch with new developments at HSCI and the impact of my contributions?
We keep this website up-to-date with new developments, new research projects, program video coverage, event announcements, and more. We encourage you to sign up for our mailing list to receive our quarterly print newsletter Stem Cell Lines and/or our monthly e-mail newsletters, Research Updates and HSCI Events. Feel free to contact us if you need more information: email@example.com or 617-496-4050.
If you have any further questions or would like to discuss how you can help support HSCI, please contact:
C. Scott Balderson, Associate Director of Gifts and Grants, HSCI, 617-495-4704 (firstname.lastname@example.org), or
Julia Parrillo, Director of Science, Engineering and Technology, University Development Office, 617-495-5270 (email@example.com)