Starr Foundation Builds Research Collaboratives

  • Medicine & Health
  • 2006

Financier Cornelius Vander Starr was an active but quiet philanthropist. His Starr Foundation, established in 1955, also maintains a low profile, though it has given away nearly $3 billion during its operating years, more than half of that in New York City. The group has a particular emphasis on fostering collaboration among successful civic institutions operating in the areas of medicine, education, public policy, and culture.

This longstanding strategy resulted in a burst of important medical grantmaking in 2005 to 2006. First a medical-research collaboration called the Tri-Institutional Stem Cell Initiative was announced—a $50 million grant to encourage the world-leading biomedical researchers at Rockefeller University, the cancer experts at Memorial Sloan Kettering, and the faculty at Cornell’s Weill Medical College to cooperate in stem-cell work. (This initiative was renewed with an additional $50 million gift to the same three institutions in 2012.)

The second collaboration, launched in 2006, donated $100 million to the same three adjoining New York research organizations, plus two others, to create the Starr Cancer Consortium. (This new effort was likewise renewed in 2012, with an additional $55 million donation.) A third large Starr Foundation gift announced in 2006 sent $50 million to Rockefeller University to create a Fund for Collaborative Science. The Starr gift was paired with a $100 million pledge from David Rockefeller, $25 million given by investor Russell Carson, $15 million from financier Henry Kravis, a $25 million anonymous gift, and others.

Starr Foundation donations of more than $300 million have thus sped discoveries in basic biomedicine, and reinforced valuable cross-fertilization among the critical mass of research talent in the New York metro area.