How Eli and Edythe Broad Plan to Cure the Incurable

In 2010, Eli and Edythe Broad were among the world's wealthiest people to sign the Giving Pledge. In their letter, the Broads vowed to give away 75% of their wealth in their lifetimes, and they are making good on that promise. Of the many areas to which the Broads have donated through their foundation, medical and scientific research is a huge focus. The Broads have granted hundreds of millions of dollars in an effort to cure the diseases that have so far evaded an antidote through stem cell research. And whipworms. (See Broad Foundation: Grants for Diseases.)

We'll get to the whipworms in a minute. Let's first focus on what the Broads' money is funding, beginning with the Broad Institute. The institute, which also is funded by Harvard and MIT, focuses on genomic medicine. It isn't clear how much the brains at Harvard and MIT contributed, but the Broads gave $600 million. This is just a guess, but the $600 million could be the reason why the Institute is named after the Broads. The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard is currently the world leader in genomic medicine research.

Next, we have the couple's heavy contributions to stem cell research — and another building named after them. The Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at the University of Southern California began with $75 million in grant money from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. This grant was in addition to the financial boost the center received when progressive-thinking Californians approved $3 billion in state funding for stem cell research. (Read Broad Foundation Executive Director Daniel Hollander's IP profile.)

Now for the whipworms.

Research has shown that overclean water conditions in developed countries may be a contributing factor to intestinal diseases such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis — diseases that are rare in less-developed countries. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation wrote a check for $38 million to help fight these diseases, and scientists came up with whipworms as a treatment. By the way, whipworms are FDA-approved. In a study of whipworm treatment involving 29 patients suffering from Crohn's, 23 patients improved.

From the extremely complicated realm of human genome therapy to the seemingly archaic use of whipworms as a medical treatment, there's no telling what the Broad Institute scientists will come up with next. And thanks to the generous funding of Eli and Edythe Broad, there isn't any reason for them to stop trying to cure the incurable.