David H. Koch Charitable Foundation: Grants for Disease

OVERVIEW: While David H. Koch is mainly known for his political activism, he's also been a huge supporter of medical research, primarily focusing on cancer, but with significant support of hospitals, as well. Like many individual funders, Koch's health giving is personal. 

IP TAKE: Tracking Koch's health giving is tricky, since not all of it flows through his foundation. What is clear is that his donations have been substantial, and vast wealth is still waiting in the wings.

PROFILE: David is the younger half of the billionaire Koch brothers, who are collectively worth more than $80 billion. While both David and his brother Charles are still quite involved in their business, and also famously immersed in politics, they've been deep into philanthropy for years. David Koch graduated from Deerfield Academy and then went on to MIT, where he received his bachelor's and master's degrees in chemical engineering.

Given his background, it make sense that Koch has an interest in STEM education. His interest in health funding took off after a prostate cancer diagnosis in the early 1990s. He said of his condition: “Once you get that disease...you become a crusader to try to cure the disease not only for yourself but for other people.” To that end, Koch himself and the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation have put some serious money behind cancer research over the years.

Huge amounts of Koch’s disease grantmaking has gone to large national cancer centers such as Memorial Sloan Kettering and MD Anderson. The foundation has also cut some pretty hefty checks to Koch’s alma mater, MIT, to support cancer related research.

As we said, tracking Koch's giving is difficult, since gifts are made outside the foundation that aren't reported anywhere. These days, judging solely by their IRS 990 forms, the money coming out of the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation has primarily gone to art, specifically dance. But we know that's not the full story. At the same time, the picture we're drawing here may be leaving out important gifts, especially very recent ones. Indeed, in the last decade Koch has made gifts of between $500,000 and $1.6 million to major hospitals, medical foundations and research institutes.

The bottom line is this: David Koch is a mega-billionaire with a very personal interest in health causes and a long track record of giving in this area. Bigger giving down the line seems inevitable. 


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