Last year, the Boston-based Klarman Family Foundation made a major investment in groundbreaking cell research. The foundation's $32.5 million grant established the Klarman Cell Observatory at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.
In the year since, with the help from the Klarmans' seed funding, researchers are making headway in understanding one of the "biggest challenges in biology," according to the Journal Science: "mapping the molecular circuitry inside mammalian cells." (See Klarman Family Foundation: Boston Area Grants).
This March, Broad researchers hypothesized about the connection between salt consumption and autoimmune disease, proposing that salt can be a trigger for health defects. It was just one of the Institute's first big discoveries since establishing the Observatory, but there will likely be plenty more to come.
When the program began, Broad Institute Director Eric Lander laid out a bold vision. "The Klarmans are laying the foundation for what I predict will grow eventually into a worldwide effort, with the same spirit and vision of the Human Genome Project," he said.
Since starting the Klarman Family Foundation, science and medical research has always been a guiding principle of the Klarmans' giving. In fact, research is one of three straightforward grantmaking initiatives of the foundation, which also includes Jewish Community and Support for Israel programs and funding for classical music projects.
But what made the gift to the Broad Institute so special — other than the size — was the impact it may have in the field of molecular biology.
"The Cell Observatory has the potential to foster insights into so many different aspects of health and disease, including the biological basis for behavioral health," Foundation President Beth Klarman said in a statement at the time. "We feel that providing this funding to the Broad, an institution whose model of collaboration accelerates innovation, is the best way to positively impact the greatest number of people."
The foundation's commitment to the Broad Institute was also a reason Beth and Seth Klarman were named No. 16 in the ranking of Boston’s most powerful philanthropists earlier this month by Boston Magazine.
In 2003, the foundation provided $2.5 million to the McLean Hospital for the Klarman Eating Disorders Center, and each year, the foundation also makes more than $1 million available for eating disorder research. According to 2011 tax documents, major grantees were Medical Foundation, Inc., with a $2 million grant, as well as more than $450,000 to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
Unfortunately for grantseekers, the foundation is mostly inaccessible, as all grants are awarded on a by-invitation proposal process. (Read Klarman senior program officer Laura Sherman's IP profile).