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New England Patriots Owner Robert Kraft Pledges $20 Million to HBS to Advance Precision Medicine

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The Robert and Myra Kraft Family Foundation, Inc. has pledged $20 million to create a new endowment at Harvard Business School (HBS) to advance precision medicine, the school announced yesterday. Foundation President Robert K. Kraft, a 1965 HBS MBA graduate and current owner of the New England Patriots NFL team, was in attendance at the Partners Precision Medicine Conference Wednesday at Harvard Medical School, where the announcement was made. The pledge comes as part of Harvard University’s $6.5 billion capital campaign.

The Kraft Endowment for Advancing Precision Medicine will support research and other activities to advance the field of precision medicine, a growing movement in patient care allowing scientists and physicians to use genomic information to understand a disease based on its biological mechanisms. Using the human genome in this way could allow for more precise diagnoses and more tailored treatments of serious diseases.

Gaps between scientific discoveries and the development and commercialization of medical solutions to help the public has slowed growth in the industry, as have rising costs of clinical trials and too little collaboration between scientists, the pharmaceutical industry and investors. HBS, in partnership with precision medicine pioneer the Broad Institute, hopes the new Kraft Endowment will contribute not only to accelerating advancements in precision medicine but also to fast-tracking commercialization of these solutions to help them reach those who need them most.


precision medicine
Patriots owner and HBS MBA ’65 Robert Kraft

Kraft’s pledge to his alma mater, where several of his sons also studied, is a very personal investment. His wife, Myra Kraft, died of ovarian cancer in 2011. During her illness, the Kraft family came to understand the promise of precision medicine through frequent consultation with Broad Institute Director Dr. Eric S. Lander, a professor at both MIT and Harvard Medical School and a former member of the HBS faculty.

“The Kraft family has long been a standard bearer in Boston’s business and philanthropic communities,” Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust said in a statement. “This extraordinary gift continues that tradition in a way that will have a huge impact on generations to come, contributing to the quality of life for many people around the globe by alleviating the pain and suffering caused by a wide array of serious illnesses.”

That the Kraft pledge goes to HBS, rather than to Harvard Medical School, is about more than just school loyalty. “At heart, many of the challenges facing the advancement of precision medicine today are business challenges,” HBS Dean Nitin Nohria said in a statement. He added that he is honored that the Krafts “see the potential for HBS to work with world-class organizations like the Broad to develop innovative and integrative new models—from organizational structures to collaborative data centers that will position Boston at the epicenter of this arena in the future.”

Already, two pilot research projects designed to accelerate the discovery and trials process are set to begin in coming months. The first, a Precision Trials Challenge, will challenge the medical and scientific community to use precision medicine techniques to find ways to cut the cost and time required to execute clinical trials. The second pilot will use crowdsourcing contests to try to break through data bottlenecks to solve and scale precision medicine solutions for both clinical and commercial use.

Many future activities are also being developed to help address challenges and seize opportunities in precision medicine. A few of them:

  • HBS research and case writing to explore commercial and financial models for convening the precision medicine community and to contribute to curricula for MBA, doctoral, executive education or online programs courses;
  • Programs, frameworks and other approaches to spur commercialization of ideas within the Harvard community, such as mentorship programs, fellowship programs and field studies;
  • Initiatives to enable the Broad Institute, Harvard, MIT, Harvard-affiliated hospitals and other entities to share infrastructure and equipment and to solicit support from appropriate government authorities.

Learn more about the new Kraft Endowment for Advancing Medical Precision at HBS.