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Science Philanthropy Alliance Announces Incoming President and Board Chair [Alliance News]

New leaders will build on the momentum of the first five years

Palo Alto, Calif. – Today, the Science Philanthropy Alliance announced that effective January 1, 2020, the current executive director, Valerie Conn, will assume the role of president and Harvey V. Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D., president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, will become board chair.

Marc Kastner, who joined the Alliance as its first president in 2015, is retiring from his role but will remain part of the organization as a consultant, supporting the Alliance’s advising work. The current board chair, Robert Conn, president and chief executive officer of The Kavli Foundation, will complete five years as chair at the end of the year and will remain on the board.

In recent years, the Alliance has established itself as a leading resource for philanthropists interested in funding basic science in the most impactful ways possible. Since 2016, by advising philanthropists and foundations that are beginning or expanding their funding of basic scientific research, the organization estimates it has influenced more than $1 billion in new funding to basic science.

Valerie Conn joined the Alliance in 2015 and helped to shape the vision and strategy of the organization which has concentrated on advising new philanthropists.

Valerie Conn, Executive Director and Incoming President, Science Philanthropy Alliance

“Valerie has been instrumental in developing the Alliance’s strategy to meet its mission of increasing philanthropic support for basic research in the natural sciences,” said Marc Kastner, outgoing president of the Alliance. “She has a deep understanding of the challenges faced by philanthropists who want to support science and has led our staff in developing the resources philanthropists need to overcome these challenges. This has led to a remarkable growth in philanthropic support for basic science, and I know that as president she will continue to build on the momentum the Alliance has created in its first five years.”

Prior to joining the Alliance, Valerie was vice president of strategy for the B612 Foundation where she worked with astronauts and scientists on an asteroid survey. From 2004 to 2013, she served as a development officer at the University of Chicago, leading teams in the Physical Sciences Division, as well as university strategic initiatives, including developing and implementing the strategy for partnership development, resource development, marketing for the Giant Magellan Telescope, and the Computation Institute fundraising initiatives.

“I am thrilled to be assuming the role of president of the Science Philanthropy Alliance as we enter a new era of growth for private funding to basic science,” said Alliance president-elect Valerie Conn. “Scientific research is at a critical juncture, and the role of philanthropy is rising in importance as a catalyst to fund breakthroughs that can improve the lives of billions of people. I look forward to building on the Alliance’s work and reputation as the number one trusted knowledge resource to philanthropists on basic science research funding.”

Founded in 2013 with just six members, the organization now boasts 30 funders committed to supporting basic scientific research in pursuit of discoveries that advance our knowledge of the world. Foundations and individuals who join the Alliance understand the need for long-term investments in fundamental science in order to answer the questions, solve the problems, and increase the knowledge of our natural world.

“Marc Kastner, as the first president of the Science Philanthropy Alliance, and Valerie Conn, as the first strategic leadership hire, have together built an extraordinary organization. It is only fitting that Valerie now steps in as the next Alliance president and continues the tremendous work they have done,” said outgoing Alliance chair Robert Conn. “It has been a privilege to work with them as chair of the board, and after five years, it is important to rotate in a membership organization. Harvey Fineberg was the unanimous choice as the next chair. He and Valerie will provide high-quality leadership as the organization moves into the next stage of growth and maturation.”

Harvey Fineberg, Incoming Board Chair, Science Philanthropy Alliance and President, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

Fineberg is president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, a $6.8 billion foundation which fosters path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, improvements in patient care and preservation of the special character of the San Francisco Bay Area. Prior to joining the foundation, he served as president of the U.S. Institute of Medicine (now National Academy of Medicine), provost of Harvard University, and dean of the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. His academic career focused on health policy, medical decision-making and research on global health, the assessment of medical technology, vaccines, and the dissemination of medical innovations.

“Under the leadership of Bob Conn and Marc Kastner, the organization has blossomed from a seed of an idea into a strong organization,” said incoming board chair, Harvey Fineberg. “I look forward to working with the board and Valerie to continue to advance scientific research through philanthropy.”

About the Science Philanthropy Alliance

Established in 2013, the Science Philanthropy Alliance provides advice and learning opportunities for individual philanthropists and foundation staffs on how to support basic research most effectively. Funded by 30 member organizations, its mission is to increase private funding for basic science in the U.S. and U.K.