18 Nov 2015

Robert and Myra Kraft Family Foundation Establish $20 Million Endowment at Harvard Business School

Gift will be dedicated to advancing the use of the human genome to develop individualized protocols for the treatment of serious diseases
(LtoR): Jonathan Kraft, Richard Hamermesh, Robert Kraft, Todd Golub, Robert Huckman
Photo: Justin Knight

BOSTON— The Robert and Myra Kraft Family Foundation, Inc., under the leadership of Foundation President Robert K. Kraft (MBA 1965), has pledged $20 million to Harvard Business School (HBS) to create the Kraft Endowment for Advancing Precision Medicine. The pledge, which is part of Harvard University’s $6.5 billion capital campaign, was announced at the Partners Precision Medicine Conference today at Harvard Medical School, with Robert Kraft in attendance.

The Kraft Endowment will be used to support research and other activities that advance the field of precision medicine. Precision medicine is a growing movement in patient care. It allows scientists and physicians to use genomic and other information to understand a disease based on its biological mechanisms and to precisely diagnose and develop tailored treatments. The growth of the industry is hampered by gaps that exist between scientific discoveries and the development and commercialization of medical solutions for public benefit. The rising cost of clinical trials and a lack of collaboration among scientists, the pharmaceutical industry and investors also hinder growth.

Harvard Business School will collaborate with the Broad Institute, a pioneer in precision medicine, and others in Boston, to find ways to accelerate breakthroughs and advance commercialization of precision medicine by harnessing the energy and ideas of the medical, science and entrepreneurial communities in the city.

A gift that could save and extend lives.

The Kraft family knows from personal experience the impact of cancer on a family. Myra Kraft, the wife of Robert and mother of Jonathan (MBA 1990), Daniel, Joshua (EdM 1993), and David (MBA 1999), died of ovarian cancer in 2011. Throughout her illness, Robert and other members of the Kraft family were in frequent consultation with Dr. Eric S. Lander, the founding director of the Broad Institute, professor of biology at MIT and systems biology at Harvard Medical School. (From 1981 to 1990, Dr. Lander was on the HBS faculty, where he taught managerial economics.) That relationship enabled the Kraft family to understand firsthand the promise of precision medicine.

“The Kraft family has long been a standard bearer in Boston’s business and philanthropic communities,” said Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust. “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. Beyond that, I am very proud that this gift gives new impetus to the role of Greater Boston as an academic and commercial hub for this all-important work.”

Added HBS Dean Nitin Nohria, "At heart, many of the challenges facing the advancement of precision medicine today are business challenges. We are honored that the Krafts, who epitomize Harvard Business School's mission of educating leaders who make a difference in the world, 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. The endowment is a wonderful and fitting tribute to Myra Kraft, who throughout her life devoted herself to helping others."

Initial research pilots designed to spark innovation and advance progress.

Two initial pilot research projects are set to begin in the coming months. Both are designed to accelerate the discovery and trials process. They are:

Precision Trials Challenge—led by HBS Professors Robert Huckman and Richard Hamermesh, this pilot will engage the medical and scientific community to seek solutions to the significant cost and time required to execute clinical trials by using the precision medicine techniques and protocols.

Crowdsourcing to Break Data Bottlenecks—Led by HBS Professor Karim Lakhani in collaboration with the Broad Institute and Harvard Catalyst, this pilot will use crowdsourcing contests to solve and scale precision medicine solutions for clinical and commercial use.

Future activities may focus on other aspects of the challenges and opportunities in precision medicine, including:

HBS research and case writing that explores promising commercial and financial models that inform the agenda for convening the precision medicine community, as well as lead to curricula for MBA, Doctoral, Executive Education or online programs courses;

Programs, frameworks and other approaches designed to catalyze commercialization of ideas within the Harvard community, including mentorship programs, student and post-graduate fellowship programs, and field studies;

Initiatives to connect various parts of the Broad Institute, Harvard, MIT, Harvard-affiliated hospitals and other entities to access shared infrastructure and equipment and to solicit support from appropriate government authorities;

Growing the precision medicine ecosystem by convening/engaging physicians, scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs.

Facilitating the incubation of promising ventures as well as efforts to match promising ideas with investors; and

Creating easier access to comprehensive patient e-records (a critical success factor in developing individualized medical treatments).

About the Robert and Myra Kraft Family Foundation, Inc.
The Kraft family, through its family Foundation, is committed to giving back to the community. The Foundation’s primary mission includes supporting education, health care, science and the needs of underserved individuals by donating to organizations that qualify as exempt organizations under Section 501 (c) (3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. The Foundation has primarily been funded by the generous donations of Robert K. Kraft, its president.


Brian Kenny

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 250 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and PhD degrees, as well as more than 175 Executive Education programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching, to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. The School and its curriculum attract the boldest thinkers and the most collaborative learners who will go on to shape the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.