William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation: Grants for Science Research

OVERVIEW: William K. Bowes, Jr., is an extremely wealthy, San Francisco-based venture capitalist. A big part of his foundation's funding goes to medical research, and organizations based in California tend to receive favor. Universities and research institutes alike have benefited from significant Bowes funding for research into a wide range of diseases.

IP TAKE:  The Bowes Foundation has a very low profile; unsolicited proposals and letters of inquiry are not accepted. All selection and research of grant recipients is done almost entirely out of the public eye by a small staff and Bowes himself, who has strong personal involvement in deciding what's funded.

PROFILE: The William K. Bowes, Jr., foundation was established in 1991 by billionaire William “Bill” Bowes, Jr. The foundation is pretty low-key and employs a small staff. The foundation does not accept proposals or unsolicited letters of inquiry, and the only public guidelines state that it "supports nonprofit organizations in several areas including (but not exclusively) medical research, access to college, the arts, and higher education."

But a closer look at its giving history reveals some of Bowes's interests. For science researchers, two key areas are stem cell research for the cure and treatment of deadly diseases - especially cancer. Bowes has sunk millions more into stem cell research at U.C. San Francisco as well as Harvard University’s Stem Cell Institute. The foundation has also given to cancer research centers such as the Canary Foundation and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

Outside of health initiatives, Bowes also supports science research institutes such as B612 Foundation, a "nonprofit dedicated to planetary defense against asteroids and other near-Earth object impacts," and the Institute for Systems Biology.

Unfortunately, an uninvited proposal won't do you any good. In terms of decision making, executive director Mary Gregory and her staff mostly provide support, and do not influence giving. The board does all its own selection and research on the organizations that it funds.

Gregory notes, however, that strong leadership is a common factor in all of the foundation's grantees, stating, "Mr. Bowes approaches grantmaking as he did companies in his venture capital career, and probably looks for the same financial and leadership strengths you'd look for in a company."


  • Mary Gregory, Executive Director
  • Fiona Barrett, Program Manager

The William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation
1660 Bush Street, Suite 300
San Francisco, California 94109
(415) 561-6540