Robert and Janice McNair Foundation: Grants for Health

OVERVIEW: The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation is a philanthropic vehicle of Houston Texans founder Robert McNair and his wife Janice. Beginning late last decade, the couple began to focus on medical research in breast and pancreatic cancer, diabetes, and the neurosciences.

IP TAKE: The foundation has a website but it currently appears to be under construction. As such, it's unclear what guidelines the foundation has or the exact avenues to get in touch. A centerpiece of the couple's philanthropy in this area are their McNair Scholars programs which identify influential researchers. By and large, the foundation focuses on making grants in Texas, especially, but not exclusively, in the Houston area.

PROFILE:  Robert C. McNair was born in North Carolina and attended University of South Carolina. His wife Janice attended nearby Columbia College. The couple have been residents of Houston, Texas for years and 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.

The couple has been heavily involved in philanthropy and has a particular interest in health. The forces here are at least in part personal as McNair has had two types of cancer. The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, one of the couple's charitable vehicles, held nearly $81 million in assets and gave away around $11.6 million in a recent year.

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. A recent McNair Student Scholar is Minhtran Ngo whose thesis is "advancing virus-specific T-cells for the treatment of cancer." (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 for some of this work, and $125,000 went to Texas Heart Institute.

Past support has also gone to 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. The foundation also recently 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 past year, as well, a large gift of around $1.6 million went to Lexicon Pharmaceuticals towards diabetes research.

The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation's website currently appears to be under construction which makes it tough to get a handle on exactly what guidelines there are, or how grantseekers can get in touch.


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The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation does not provide a clear avenue for getting in touch but below is an address:

The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation
109 N. Post Oak Ln., Ste. 600
Houston, TX 77024
Fax: (713) 336-7757