Endowments for some of the world’s most accomplished scientists

Our faculty are all giants in their fields. The seven Nobel laureates and hundreds of other innovators on our faculty have the highest per-capita federal funding rate of any academic medical center in the nation. But NIH dollars are unpredictable and can only be used in very specific ways on preapproved projects. That’s why we need endowments for our faculty. Endowments provide the creative freedom,
stability, and institutional endorsement that the world’s finest scientific minds deserve—and can command elsewhere.

Endowments supply guaranteed funding faculty members can use at their discretion to take risks, explore exciting new ideas, and  establish proofs-of-concept they can leverage to obtain more funding. But Stanford has relatively few faculty endowments compared to other top medical schools. We have many more deserving faculty than we have endowments to award, so this philanthropic initiative  aims to create 30 new endowments to give our faculty the freedom to innovate to their full potential.

20 endowed professorships will be created by this initiative and awarded to outstanding senior faculty. The highest honor a university can bestow on faculty, endowed professorships enable scientists to pursue disruptive, high-risk, high-reward ideas.

10 endowed scholarships will also be established to empower younger faculty at a critical time in their careers—when they’re at the peak of their productivity and creativity—but not yet considered safe bets for NIH funding.

I’m working to fix a mutation that can contribute to diseases like diabetes and Parkinson’s.

Daria Mochly-Rosen, PhD
The George D. Smith Professor of Translational Medicine

My life’s work—and my lab’s work—is translating fundamental discoveries into new therapeutics. But until just a few years ago, this kind of translational research was considered non-academic work that should be handled by industry. Nobody wanted to support it.

That all changed in 2006 when I was honored with Stanford’s first endowed professorship in translational medicine. It’s been a real validation of my work, and the discretionary funding it generates has given me the freedom to tackle problems no one else is thinking about—like the fact that more than 500 million people have a genetic mutation that causes a serious enzyme deficiency. Until recently, the mutation was thought to be benign, but we now know it can contribute to many life-threatening conditions, including esophageal cancer and diabetes. It can also play a role in common neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and rare pediatric illnesses like Fanconi anemia.

There’s been absolutely no effort to develop a drug to correct it—until now. By leveraging these funds and being able to use them how we needed to, we found a small molecule that fixes the problem. We generated proof-of-concept to get more funding from the NIH and to progress to clinical trials.

There’s also been a ripple effect. Thanks to the research tools we developed with these funds, our once-tiny field now has its own international conference! None of this would have been possible without my endowed professorship.

Faculty leaders

Hear from Stanford Medicine endowed professors unlocking discoveries to deliver a brighter future for human health.


Header image: Colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of mitochondria (blue) in a pancreatic acinar cell. The mutation Dr. Mochly-Rosen’s team is working to correct causes a deficiency in an enzyme that protects these vital organelles, which are the metabolic engines that power every cell in our bodies.