Major Bonus for Microbiome

  • Medicine & Health
  • 2017

The Chicago-area Duchossois family had previously donated $37 million to the medical school of the University of Chicago. But in 2017 they made an especially interesting gift of $100 million, aimed not just at treating disease, but at understanding how the body fends off invaders and keeps itself well. Specifically, they funded work to deepen understanding of human “microbiomes”—the large collection of healthy bacteria and other microorganisms that exist inside all of our bodies, which we have recently learned are crucial to balancing our nutrition and body weight, immunizing us against environmental threats, and influencing how effectively we metabolize the drugs we take to cure problems.

Chicago sciences dean Conrad Gilliam called the Duchossois family’s decision to focus on the microbiome “prescient.” He noted it now “appears that the microbiome affects nearly every organ and possibly every disease. So…we liked the family’s idea that rather than try to go after each disease, let’s focus on how the microbiome can be manipulated to maintain a person’s health.”

Another innovative twist to the family’s gift is that they have connected it to business spinoffs to make it self-sustaining. Their new program will link with the university’s center for entrepreneurship to bring scientific discoveries to the health-care market in partnership with businesses. All money made in this way will be reinvested into the institute’s work. The $100 million of philanthropy will last ten years, by which time revenue from the commercial spinoffs is intended to support future investigations.