Here's How McNair Supports Medical Research

Now in his late 70s, billionaire Robert C. McNair and his wife, Janice, have been involved in philanthropy for decades. McNair founded Cogen Technologies in 1983, one of the largest non-utility co-generators of electrical and thermal energy in the United States. Cogen was sold to Enron in 1999 for $1.5 billion, and McNair is worth around $3 billion. McNair now serves as chairman and CEO of McNair Group and also founded the Houston Texans.

On the philanthropic end, the couple moves some of their philanthropy through the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, which held nearly $81 million in assets and gave away around $11.6 million in a recent year. The foundation has a website, which has been under construction for a while now. As such, it's unclear what guidelines the foundation has or the exact avenues to get in touch. However, medical and science research is an important part of this couple's philanthropy and the forces here are at least in part personal, as McNair has suffered from cancer.

Baylor College of Medicine is the site of the McNair Scholars program, which identifies and recruits talented scientists and physician-scientists from around the world to the Texas Medical Center. These McNair Scholars pursue "collaborative and transformational research in the areas of breast and pancreatic cancer, juvenile diabetes and the neurosciences." To provide an idea of the kind of work McNair is looking for, one McNair Scholar Malgorzata Borowiak's work involves "human pancreatic development and pluripotent stem cell technology application towards cellular therapy for type 1 diabetes." (Click here to see a list of McNair Scholars). Baylor is also the site of the McNair Student Scholars program, which supports students for eight years through medical and graduate school. (Click here to see a list of McNair Student Scholars).

The McNair Scholars program doesn't just operate at Baylor, but also at places such as MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas Heart Institute, Columbia College in South Carolina, University of South Carolina, Rice University, and Menninger Clinic, an inpatient psychiatric hospital. At least $1.5 million went to University of South Carolina in a recent year for some of this work, and $125,000 went to Texas Heart Institute.

Apart from this work, past support has gone to outifts such as the Dr. Marnie Rose Foundation towards brain cancer research, Bellville Hospital Foundation, Epilepsy Foundation of Texas, McLane Children's Scott & White and American Cancer Society, which received a $205,000 grant in 2013. The foundation also issued a $4 million challenge grant to American Cancer Society to help build an American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Houston, which will provide "no-cost lodging and support to those traveling across America to receive cancer treatment in Houston."  In a recent year, as well, a large gift of around $1.6 million went to Lexicon Pharmaceuticals towards diabetes research.

Related: Robert and Janice McNair Foundation: Grants for Health