Author Archives for Elenoa Fuka

COVID-19 data hub, the White House issues a ‘call to action’ for AI researchers [via Tech Crunch]

March 17, 2020 4:19 pm Published by Leave a comment

In a briefing on Monday, research leaders across tech, academia and the government joined the White House to announce an open data set full of scientific literature on the novel coronavirus. The COVID-19 Open Research Dataset, known as CORD-19, will also add relevant new research moving forward, compiling it into one centralized hub. The new data set is machine readable, making it easily parsed for machine learning purposes — a key advantage according to researchers involved in the ambitious project.

In a press conference, U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios called the new data set the “most extensive collection of machine readable coronavirus literature to date.” Kratsios characterized the project as a “call to action” for the AI community, which can employ machine learning techniques to surface unique insights in the body of data. To come up with guidance for researchers combing through the data, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine collaborated with the World Health Organization to come up with “high priority” questions about the coronavirus related to genetics, incubation, treatment, symptoms and prevention.

Read more here.

HHMI Opens New Program for Medically Trained Scientists [via HHMI]

March 13, 2020 12:36 pm Published by Leave a comment

A new $120 million research program aims to tap scientists’ knowledge of the human body.

Today, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) unveiled the Medically Trained Scientists Program (MTS), an initiative to support scientists who have a background in medicine. The 2021 program will offer as many as eight years of support for up to 10 early career scientists who are committed to conducting basic research. This long-term investment will begin with mentored postdoctoral training and transition through MTS fellows’ early years as independent faculty.

Read more here.

Anticipating the Future of Science: A Look Back and a Look Ahead [via UCSD Research Affairs]

March 6, 2020 3:43 pm Published by Leave a comment

The University of California San Diego recently hosted a day-long symposium celebrating the philanthropic funding of early-career faculty in their research endeavors. Foundations from across the country attended the event, which was specifically created to acknowledge the special relationship the university has with the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA). Created in 1912, RCSA provides catalytic funding for innovative scientific research and the development of academic scientists.

The symposium featured a full day of presentations from UC San Diego and University of San Diego faculty who have benefited from RCSA’s generosity, either through the Cottrell Scholar program or through Scialog, a sharply focused research conference that fosters the development of innovative, collaborative, interdisciplinary projects that fall into the category of “high risk/high reward.”

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Responding to Covid-19 — A Once-in-a-Century Pandemic? by Bill Gates [via The New England Journal of Medicine]

March 5, 2020 10:31 am Published by Leave a comment

In any crisis, leaders have two equally important responsibilities: solve the immediate problem and keep it from happening again. The Covid-19 pandemic is a case in point. We need to save lives now while also improving the way we respond to outbreaks in general. The first point is more pressing, but the second has crucial long-term consequences.

The long-term challenge — improving our ability to respond to outbreaks — isn’t new. Global health experts have been saying for years that another pandemic whose speed and severity rivaled those of the 1918 influenza epidemic was a matter not of if but of when.1 The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed substantial resources in recent years to helping the world prepare for such a scenario.

Read more here.

Freedom, Creativity, and Innovation: The Packard Fellowship Case Study

February 19, 2020 10:00 pm Published by Leave a comment

Learn how David Packard, co-founder of the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, launched the Packard Fellowship program. Download the Packard Fellowship case study.

Packard and his colleagues created a new type of fellowship aimed at early-career researchers. This model has stood the test of time like few other philanthropic initiatives, and to this day, three decades since they launched, the Packard Fellowships have continued to act as a catalyst for scientific and engineering discovery.

Now more than 30 years old, the Packard Fellowships for Science and Engineering is a rare program that has stood the test of time, and it has remained much as it was at its founding.

“[My father] very often said all of the progress made in the twentieth century was based on science of the nineteenth century. He really understood at a very deep level and believed that to make progress as a society and as a nation and as a world, we really needed to focus on advancing science and engineering both.” –  Susan Packard Orr, David Packard’s daughter and past board chair of the Foundation.

Read the Packard Fellowship case study here.

UT Southwestern scientists discover potential vulnerabilities in new coronavirus [via News Medical]

February 17, 2020 7:14 pm Published by Leave a comment

UT Southwestern Medical Center data scientists analyzing genetic sequences of the COVID-19 coronavirus have identified potential vulnerabilities that could help in vaccine development and further study of the infectious disease now spreading worldwide.

Specifically, the researchers point to areas where the viral genome encodes T cell and B cell antigens that could stimulate a response from the human immune system. They then compared those against the immunological maps of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) gathered in those coronavirus outbreaks. The resulting analysis was posted to the bioRxiv preprint server this week prior to peer review.

Read more here.

Press Release: Shirley Tilghman, Ph.D. announced new Senior Science Advisor at Science Philanthropy Alliance [Alliance News]

February 6, 2020 3:00 am Published by Leave a comment


Palo Alto, California – The Science Philanthropy Alliance has appointed Shirley Tilghman as senior science advisor.

Shirley Tilghman, Ph.D. brings with her a long career as a molecular biologist and University administrator. A champion of the importance of scientific discovery and its positive impact on the quality of life and wellbeing for people around the world, she is responsible for groundbreaking discoveries in genetics.

Dr. Tilghman was the 19th president of Princeton University, the first woman and the first biologist to hold the position. Prior to becoming President, Tilghman was founding director of Princeton’s Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, promoting collaboration across scientific disciplines. She helped launch the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment and the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science. Dr. Tilghman is also known for her national leadership in advancing the careers of women in science and engineering, serving as a role model and mentor. She was a founding member of the National Institute of Health’s National Advisory Council of the Human Genome Project, as well as a member of the committee charged with designing and planning U.S. work on the project. You can read more about Dr. Tilghman here.

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Tilghman join us as she brings a breadth and depth of experience in science and in philanthropy to the funders she will advise” says Valerie Conn, president.

Dr. Tilghman joins a growing team of senior science advisors at the Alliance, who will help funders understanding both the scientific and the funding landscape in fundamental research, identifying gaps and sharing opportunities for investment. The Alliance’s senior science advisors bring over a century of experience in various models and methods of funding basic science, in addition to being active researchers who understand how transformative basic research is done. Previously announced, former Alliance President Marc Kastner stepped down from his role at the end of 2019 and continues with the Alliance as a senior science advisor, joining current senior science advisors David Baltimore and Robert Tjian.

The mission of Science Philanthropy Alliance is to increase private support for basic scientific research by providing advice and learning opportunities for funders. By building a community of funders, the Alliance has emerged as the leading resource for basic science philanthropy, playing a critical role influencing new funds to support basic scientific knowledge—knowledge that is essential to the improvement of human health and welfare.

For more information, contact Michael G. Bare at 650.338.1199.

Click here for the announcement PDF.

Science Institutions for a Complex, Fast-Paced World [via Issues in Science and Technology]

February 5, 2020 12:00 pm Published by Leave a comment

The story of Vannevar Bush and his 1945 report, Science, the Endless Frontier, has attained in a mere 75 years something of the status—at least among those of us concerned with American science and technology policy—of Moses delivering the tablets from Mount Sinai. The narrative elements are almost mythically compelling: how Bush mobilized the academic science community to deliver the technological advances that helped the United States and its allies win World War II; how, with victory in sight, he recognized the need for a continuation of government support for academic science to ensure America’s continued military and economic security after the war; how President Roosevelt—at Bush’s behest—requested a plan for postwar science; and how Bush in response delivered Science, the Endless Frontier, the brilliantly articulated rationale and blueprint for an implicit social contract between government and the science community.

Read more here.

Press Release: Valerie Conn announced new President of Science Philanthropy Alliance [Alliance News]

February 4, 2020 9:00 am Published by Leave a comment


Palo Alto, CA – The Science Philanthropy Alliance has named Valerie Conn as new president.

As president, Valerie continues to bring her 30 years of experience working with philanthropists and scientists to build the community of private funders to basic science research. In her various roles at the Science Philanthropy Alliance (vice president, executive director, and now president), Valerie has been committed to growing the basic science philanthropy sector and built a team of senior scientific advisors, philanthropy advisors, and early career PhD scientists to provide expert advice to philanthropists on how to support fundamental scientific research, at the same time as growing a strong membership organization. Valerie is a recognized expert on science philanthropy and a frequent speaker to philanthropists, university science leaders, and fundraising professionals.

Prior to joining the Alliance, Valerie was vice president of strategy for the B612 Foundation where she worked with astronauts and scientists to protect Earth from asteroid impacts. Valerie spent a decade in development at the University of Chicago where she led teams in the Physical Sciences Division, as well as university strategic initiatives, including developing and implementing the strategy for resources, partners and marketing for the Giant Magellan Telescope and the Computation Institute. Valerie began her career at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1989, after which she led a campaign for medical research at Children’s Memorial Hospital (now Lurie Children’s) in Chicago.

Valerie serves on the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering and Medicine for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, is on the Strategic Advisory Council for India Alliance, and is a working group co-chair for the Healthy Brains Financing Initiative.

“Valerie Conn is ideally positioned to take up responsibilities as the president of the Science Philanthropy Alliance. She understands both science and philanthropy and brings a positive spirit to everything she does. I look forward with pleasure to working with her.” says Harvey V. Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D., board chair, and president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Valerie takes over the role from colleague and former Alliance President Marc Kastner who stepped down from his role at the end of 2019 and continues with the Alliance as a senior science advisor.

The mission of Science Philanthropy Alliance is to increase private support for basic scientific research by providing advice and learning opportunities for funders. By building a community of funders, the Alliance has emerged as the leading resource for basic science philanthropy.

For more information, contact Michael G. Bare at 650.338.1199.

Click here for the announcement PDF.

Nobelists urge Trump to require free access to taxpayer-funded publications [via Berkeley News]

January 28, 2020 2:28 pm Published by Leave a comment

Led by UC Berkeley’s Randy Schekman, 21 Nobel laureates from the United States have sent an open letter to President Donald Trump urging him to follow through on a rumored plan to make all federally funded research studies free for the public to read immediately upon publication.

Currently, most journals require a subscription to read their published articles, or make them publicly accessible after a certain period of time. In 2013, President Barack Obama required that all research funded by the U.S. government be made freely available online within 12 months of publication, specifically the peer-reviewed and accepted versions that authors receive prior to journal publication.

Read more here.

A Calling for Moonshot Philanthropy [via The Moonshot Catalog]

January 2, 2020 2:57 pm Published by Leave a comment

Let’s start with some billionaire math.

Some 2000 ultra-wealthy households in the United States each hold more than $500 million in assets. This deepest-pocketed demographic controls about $3.7 trillion dollars. In 2017, these wealthiest of Americans donated about $45 billion to charity, translating into an annual charitable giving rate of about 1.2% of their assets. Meanwhile, the vast assets of those same individuals likely grew at a rate that matched or exceeded the S&P 500’s 9% average rate of return over the past 20 years.

“Wealth is piling up and people are not giving as fast as they might,” says Sue Merrilees , a senior advisor with the Science Philanthropy Alliance, a Palo Alto, California-based nonprofit philanthropy advisory group. The Alliance was established in 2013 to help those of considerable means — often known in this sphere as high net worth individuals (HNWI) — give in ways that further scientific causes they care about.

Read more here.

A Few Words From Outgoing President Marc Kastner [Alliance News]

December 11, 2019 11:02 am Published by Leave a comment

Many of you already know the story of how I came to the Science Philanthropy Alliance. For those who do not, we should journey back to 2013.

I had been nominated in the fall by then-President Barack Obama to serve as Director of the Office of Science at the Department of Energy, but almost on the day of my nomination a fight broke out in the U.S. Senate. Harry Reid abolished the filibuster on presidential appointments, and the ensuing battle, largely due to federal judge appointments, postponed a Senate vote on my confirmation for over a year. The Senate changed hands in November of 2014, so I would have to start the process all over again.

Fast forward. My wife and I were fast asleep in Paris that winter; my phone rang in the middle of the night. Jim Simons had called my cell phone—assuming I was in Boston and it was a reasonable hour—to ask me if I was interested in the position of president at the Science Philanthropy Alliance. I was interested and I accepted the position.

I had originally thought I would run the organization from Boston. However, David Baltimore (Nobelist and President Emeritus of Cal Tech) pointed me to a 2014 article from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, listing the top 50 philanthropists in the country. 16 of them were in California and a handful were in the New York tri-state region. Zero were in Boston. It was then I decided that a move was imminent.

In March of 2015, after relocating to Silicon Valley, I began my tenure as president of the Science Philanthropy Alliance. For the first few months we were allowed to squat at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation as we gained our footing. By the end of the month, I had recruited Valerie Conn to be our Vice President. I knew that for someone to take this role, they needed the skills and abilities of a seasoned fundraiser, a role in which Valerie had previously excelled.

That May, Valerie and I found ourselves at a table with 15 billionaires or their representatives invited by Jim and Marilyn Simons of the Simons Foundation and Paul Joskow of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. We had assumed the difficult part would be convincing these potential philanthropists that basic science was important to fund; this was not the case. They were all committed to basic science, they just felt they didn’t know how to do it.

Looking at the Alliance’s six foundation members, who together had 200 of years of experience in philanthropy, Valerie and I knew that we had the expertise to teach new philanthropists the best way to give to the basic sciences. Within a few months we had a strategy; I like to say the board hired me because they had a mission and no strategy, and they thought I might be able to come up with one. I am amazed that within a month, Valerie and I had done just that.

Later that year, Valerie and I attended a Giving Pledge learning session hosted by Jim and Marilyn Simons. We met with 30 giving pledgers or their representatives and have been advising them on strategic giving to basic science ever since; many are now members of the Alliance. Since 2015, we have grown our membership from six to 30.

As I step down as president of the Science Philanthropy Alliance, I am acutely aware of the vital role of science philanthropy in society. With governmental budgets reducing their funding to the basic sciences, and more interest shown by both government and private industry in “results” in the form of innovations in the applied sciences, we must remind everyone that these innovations would be impossible without basic science research as the very foundation of what makes them possible. For example, CRISPR technology, now being applied to a large number of disease therapeutics, came out of curiosity-driven studies of how bacteria deal with attacks by viruses. The information revolution began with basic research in solid-state physics.

While the large pledges and gifts we have cultivated for the basic sciences has been thrilling, it is even more fulfilling to watch each new philanthropist moving along the path to gaining better understanding of the best and most effective practices in philanthropy. We witness their deep satisfaction from their support of basic science because their giving is effective.

I want to thank the board of directors, both the original and the current members of the board, who have been unbelievably supportive and responsive, and my staff for their service over the years in growing the Alliance, and their help in achieving our mission.