Nine Leading Philanthropic Organizations
Join Together to Launch Science for America
An Unprecedented Collaboration to Solve
Urgent Challenges in Climate, Health, Equity & More
July 20, 2022
The world is facing so many urgent challenges and opportunities—in climate, health, equity, prosperity, and much more. Science and technology will be central in responding—because they have the ability to produce transformative solutions. America’s unique capabilities for bold innovation will be essential for success—for the country and for the world. The actions we take over the next ten years will define the course of the next hundred.
We need a clear vision, strategy, and execution to produce game-changing solutions — rooted in a sense of bold scientific and technological possibility and committed to fundamental human equity.
We also need to re-invigorate our overall innovation ecosystem. Over the past seventy-five years, America’s innovation ecosystem drove tremendous and rapid progress in science and technology for the benefit of the country and the globe. But much has changed over those decades. These shifts include changes in the roles played by different sectors, increased global competition, greater feedback between basic discovery and commercial development, decreasing risk tolerance, growing obstacles to speed, and greater recognition of the need to fully engage all Americans to retain our scientific and technological leadership. To tackle the challenges ahead, we will also need to refresh, reshape, and re-invigorate America’s innovation ecosystem across all sectors.
It’s going to take all of us working together. Major advances depend on a whole ecosystem—working together—including government, industry, academia and philanthropy, which all play crucial and complementary roles. We need clear plans for actions to be taken across sectors. Scientists and technologists will need to play a central role in this work.
That’s why some of the nation’s leading philanthropic individuals, initiatives, and organizations have joined together in an unprecedented alliance to help launch Science for America. The philanthropic partners, who have together committed $30 million over two years to launch Science for America, are:
- Bloomberg Philanthropies
- The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation
- Emerson Collective
- Ford Foundation
- Gates Ventures
- Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation
- Reid Hoffman Foundation
- Seth Klarman
- Schmidt Futures
Science for America will be driven by scientists and technologists, focusing on the kind of game-changing solutions that science and technology can create to help address major societal challenges.
Science for America will be a ‘solutions incubator.’ Going beyond making recommendations, it will create clear vision, strategy, and execution plans for urgent challenges, and work with organizations across sectors to launch them and ensure their success.
Science for America will:
- Focus initially on five urgent challenges: the climate and energy crisis; medicine and public health; STEM equity and education; leadership and responsibility in critical technologies; and new models to support research and innovation.
- Bring together brilliant and diverse experts, with a wide range of expertise, experiences and perspectives.
- Develop a clear vision for game-changing solutions, based on successful exemplars and new ideas.
- Incubate solutions, including developing strategy and execution plans for efforts that might take the form of specific projects, larger initiatives, shared facilities, coalitions across sectors, new companies, advocacy groups, and more.
- Nucleate collaborations with philanthropic partners and other organizations to ensure the success of the solutions.
Science for America’s work is intended to complement vibrant efforts across all sectors—learning from them and sharing its own learnings. It will serve as a bridge across the philanthropic organizations in identifying bold solutions that they—and others—may pursue individually or collaboratively. It will aim to connect and partner with creative efforts in industry, academia, and elsewhere, and to be a supporter and support critical efforts in government. It will aim to catalyze new efforts, enhance current efforts, and promote synergy across the ecosystem.
Science for America will be a non-profit organization and will be able to accept donations that are tax-deductible under Section 501(c)(3). It will draw extensively on external strategic advisors and domain experts, as well as its own staff.
Science for America will have bi-coastal headquarters in two of America’s science and technology hubs: the Boston Area and the Bay Area. It will also make extensive use of remote work and meetings, to engage staff, advisors, experts, and collaborators across the country and the world.
“I have long believed diverse perspectives and imagination are critical to solving the toughest problems,” Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO and President, Ariel Investments. “The most urgent threats to our planet demand that we cultivate the next generation of STEM leaders. I am proud to support Science for America’s mission to address underrepresentation and foster breakthrough innovations in science and technology.”
FIVE URGENT AREAS
Science for America will initially focus on five areas of national and global urgency and great opportunity.
Climate and energy crisis. Bold and relentless innovation will be critical to solving the climate and energy crisis. We need to accelerate development, for all our needs, of net-zero-carbon technologies that are much cheaper than greenhouse-gas (GHG) emitting alternative—so that net-zero solutions are always the logical choice and so that underserved nations and peoples have access to more energy, not less. Currently, the world is dramatically underinvesting in potentially game-changing energy technologies, such as fusion, electro fuels, thin-film solar, inexpensive carbon capture, and more. We also need ways to directly, objectively, and rigorously measure and monitor GHG emissions around the globe—so we can assess progress and hold everyone accountable; this will require new science, new instruments, and new computation. And, we need far more systematic and replicable approaches to adaptation, especially for communities facing the greatest inequities.
“Fighting the twin crises of climate change and inequality is a battle that we cannot afford to lose, which is why supporting the advancement of science and fact-based policy remains more important than ever,” said Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation. “We are proud to partner with Science for America to catalyze new efforts across sectors in pursuit of long-lasting, sustainable solutions for the benefit of all people.”
Health. Medicine and public health are ripe for transformation in the coming years. There are so many learnings from the pandemic (both successes, such as rapid vaccine development and failures, such as ineffectiveness and inequities in our public health systems), as well as stunning advances in molecular biology over the past decades that point the way toward ‘programmable therapeutics’ (e.g., delivering instructions to specific cell types to alter their behavior). One urgent need is to prevent future outbreaks from turning into devastating pandemics by continuing to drive bold innovation (e.g., in how we create, test and manufacture vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics; and how we build early warning and monitoring systems). This is not only a historic responsibility; it will help transform prevention and treatment of existing infectious diseases. Another urgent opportunity is to halve the death rate from cancer over the next 25 years (e.g., through developing vaccines that can prevent many cancers; annual blood tests for early detection; eliminating stark inequities in diagnosis, treatment and outcomes based on race, resources; and geography; learning from patients’ experiences; and more). A third urgent need is to rethink our public health system (e.g., through ‘community-connected health’ that meets people where they are, has the tools it needs to serve them, and is trusted.)
“We’re in a time of enormous global challenges but also of unprecedented opportunities to help people around the world live longer, better lives,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, Founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies. “We can only seize those opportunities by supporting science, following the data, and working together. That approach has helped guide our philanthropic work on many issues, including those at the center of this critical new initiative: public health, climate change, and STEM diversity. We’re glad to support its work advancing scientific innovation and collaborative partnerships that will help drive progress on some of the most important challenges facing the world today – and tomorrow.”
STEM equity and education. To succeed, America will need to draw on all Americans. Historically, STEM has failed to engage and often actively excluded many people—especially based on gender, race, region, and resources. With only 4% of the world’s population, the U.S. can’t afford to leave people on the sidelines. And, with scientific progress depending on fresh insights and perspectives, the U.S. needs to take full advantage of its unparalleled diversity. We need to build on and expand effective solutions, to ensure that everyone can explore, belong, and thrive in STEM education, careers and leadership positions. Solutions include creating on-ramps to let people join at many stages; bridges to enable people to stay on track as they transition across institutions and life events; ways to expand access to launching start-ups; data collection to drive progress; and policies that reward success in ways that drive individual and institutional action. We also need to unleash the creativity of STEM teachers, explore new models for STEM in schools, and reimagine the role of education schools to maximize their effectiveness.
“Science is integral to every aspect of our lives, and aptitude for STEM exists in every corner of our community,” said Gerun Riley, President of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. “But to realize the enormous potential for science to improve lives, we must be more intentional about creating pathways for BIPOC students to participate in STEM studies and careers so the emerging technologies, treatments, innovations and analyses are representative—and inclusive—of different lived experiences.”
Critical technologies: leadership and responsibility. America’s leadership and responsibility in critical technologies—such as semiconductors, synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, fusion reactors, autonomous machines, quantum computing, and much more—will be crucial to our own prosperity and security, as well as to the world’s. With near-peer competitors who have learned from us and are executing vigorously, we need to update our playbook. We need a clearer understanding of the mechanisms that can promote the creation of leading-edge and new technologies, new companies, and new jobs. We need to ensure that America remains the magnet for the world’s scientific talent from America and abroad—the most attractive and welcoming place for students to train, researchers to work, and entrepreneurs to build businesses. And, in all this, we need to work closely with allies who share our values and address global needs, including in countries that lack advanced capabilities in science and technology.
“American leadership in the race for advanced technologies is precarious. We still have the opportunity to stay ahead for our collective prosperity, but it will require a national effort involving government, industry, academia and philanthropy working together if we want free and open societies to lead the next wave of innovation for the benefit of all,” said Eric Schmidt, co-Founder, Schmidt Futures. We also need to bet early on exceptional people, and back high-skilled immigration to power the high-risk, high-reward research that can deliver results for society. If we can win this race, we can positively employ these foundational technologies in a manner consistent with democratic values.”
New innovation models. We need to rethink and reshape America’s innovation ecosystem across all sectors—by unleashing creativity and speed in scientific research and development and by urgently developing new mechanisms, institutions, and programs designed to support bold goals, tolerate greater risk, move faster, span sectors, and operate at large scale when needed. We must draw on the complementary strengths of academia, venture capital, new start-ups, existing companies, and government. There is tremendous creative energy around this need in philanthropy, industry, and some parts of academia. We also need to support government to be maximally ambitious. It is time to think systematically about which approaches work best for which challenges. Getting this right will have a huge impact.
“Science and technology are critical to solving the world’s most intractable problems. We need to accelerate our scientific research and development, in breadth, in depth, and in boldness,” said Reid Hoffman, Partner, Greylock. “Creating a network that connects our key institutions and facilitates collaboration among them, while also enabling great and diverse talent will be key.”
LEADERSHIP AND ADVISORS
Science for America will be led and staffed by experts in science and technology and will be shaped by external strategic advisors. It will also bring together a large collection of external domain experts, with a wide range of expertise, experiences, and perspectives.
Dr. Eric Lander will serve as Chief Scientist and lead the effort. Lander was one of the principal leaders of the international Human Genome Project, and was founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, a new kind of biomedical research institute. He is currently on an academic leave from the Broad, MIT and Harvard. Lander has served in many roles as an advisor to the federal government, including as co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) under President Obama and as science advisor to President Biden and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). He has also founded and collaborated with companies across a range of industries.
Dr. Kaitlin Browman will serve as Chief Operating Officer. Browman is a neuroscientist with more than 20 years of experience doing scientific research, strategic operations, and senior administration. She has experience building operations, strategies and teams and partnering with senior leaders to deliver on bold scientific missions, both in the biopharmaceutical industry and at non-profit research institutes.
- Harry Atwater, Howard Hughes Professor and Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, California Institute of Technology; Member, National Academy of Engineering
- Zhenan Bao, Department Chair and K. K. Lee Professor of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University; Member, National Academy of Engineering
- Gilda Barabino, President and Professor of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering, Olin College of Engineering; Member, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Medicine
- Luciana Borio, Venture Partner, ARCH; Former Vice President, In-Q-Tel; Former Director for Medical and Biodefense Preparedness, National Security Council; Former Acting Chief Scientist, US Food and Drug Administration; Member, National Academy of Medicine
- Carla Brodley, Former Dean of the Khoury College of Computer Sciences and Current Dean of Inclusive Computing and Executive Director of the Center for Inclusive Computing at Northeastern University
- Yet-ming Chiang. Kyocera Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, MIT; Member, National Academy of Engineering
- Yi Cui, Director, Precourt Institute for Energy; Professor of Materials Science, Stanford University
- Michele Flournoy, Co-founder and Managing Partner of WestExec Advisors; Co-founder, Former CEO and current Board Chair of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS); and Former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (2009-12).
- Levi Garraway, Executive Vice President, Head of Product Development and Chief Medical Officer, Genentech, a member of the Roche Group. Former Senior Vice President, Oncology Research and Development & Novel Target Research, Eli Lilly and Company; Former Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Former Institute Member, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; Member, National Academy of Medicine
- Margaret Hamburg, Former Commissioner U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Past Board Chair, American Association for the Advancement of Science; Member and Former Foreign Secretary, National Academy of Medicine
- Asegun Henry, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, and Founder, Thermal Battery Corporation
- Fei-Fei Li, Sequoia Professor of Computer Science and Denning Co-Director of Stanford Institute for Human-centered AI; Co-Founder and Chairperson of AI4ALL.org; and Former VP and Chief Scientist of Google Cloud; Member, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Medicine
- John Lilly, Venture Partner, Greylock; Former CEO, Mozilla
- Hemai Parthasarathy, Head of Rapid Evaluation, X, the moonshot factory
- William Regan, Project Lead at X, the moonshot factory; Founder of the ARPA-E Alumni Network; former Fellow at ARPA-E
- Aviv Regev, Executive Vice President, Head of Research and Early Development, Genentech, a member of the Roche Group. Founding co-Chair, Human Cell Atlas. Former Chair of the Faculty and Core Member, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; Former Professor, MIT; Former Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
- Diego Rodriguez, Design Engineer, Technology Executive, and Educator: Former Chief Product & Design Officer, Intuit; Former Senior Partner at IDEO and Global Managing Director of IDEO Futures; Founding faculty, Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (aka “the d.school”)
- Mike Schroepfer, Co-founder, Additional Ventures; Former Chief Technology Officer, Meta (Facebook)
- Kevin Scott, Chief Technology Officer, Microsoft
- Pamela Silver, Adams Professor of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, and Member, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University
- Christina Smolke, CEO, Antheia, Inc; Adjunct Professor and formerly Professor of Bioengineering, Stanford University
- Shirley Tilghman, Professor of Molecular Biology and Public Affairs, and President Emerita, Princeton University; Member, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Medicine
- Daniel Wattendorf, Director, Biotechnology Accelerator, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Former Program Manager, DARPA; Former Director, Air Force Medical Genetics Center
“Lander and Browman are an ideal team to help launch Science for America alongside a game-changing group of partners and strategic advisors,” said Reid Hoffman. “He has a thirty-year-long track record of assembling and empowering visionary scientific organizations, and she is known for building and leading impressive scientific teams.”
“It’s a tremendously consequential time for science and technology with respect to the future of this country and the world,” said Eric Lander. “The actions we take over the next ten years will define the course of the next hundred.”
“I am excited to work with a world-renowned group of scientists, many of the leading philanthropists in the U.S., Eric Lander, and our team to build a transformative organization to solve our most pressing issues,” said Kaitlin Browman.