New England Patriots owner and philanthropist Robert Kraft is donating $20 million to advance personalized medicine, the growing field of research that holds the promise of new treatments for patients with debilitating diseases.
The donation, from the Robert and Myra Kraft Family Foundation, will establish a new endowment at Harvard Business School to fund research in personalized, or precision, medicine, in which doctors and scientists tailor medical treatments for individuals based on specific information about their genes, lifestyles, and other factors.
Faculty at the school will use the funds to work with other organizations, including the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, a Cambridge research institution, to study how to advance the commercialization of precision medicine.
The business professors will look for ways to reduce the costs of clinical trials to test personalized treatments. They will also study strategies to foster collaboration between researchers, the pharmaceutical industry, and investors to bring the treatments to market.
"The advance of precision medicine is going to require cooperation among many different organizations that are specialized in many different aspects of bringing precision therapies to patients," said Robert S. Huckman, a Harvard Business School professor who will help conduct the new research.
Kraft, whose wife, Myra, died in 2011 after battling ovarian cancer, announced the donation at a precision medicine conference on Wednesday.
"Harvard Business School doesn't need money from us," Kraft said, "but I'm hoping that the business school, working with the Broad, will be like Uber and be disruptive," speeding breakthroughs in precision medicine from the lab to patients.
Kraft said scientists are making remarkable progress in understanding how genes work, but those discoveries are not reaching patients fast enough.
"We have the information floating around," he said. "We just haven't put it together."