“The key to meaningful research does not lie in the ability to work out and solve a tricky problem in the laboratory,” noted Richard S.In celebrating our 75th anniversary, Childs, writing in preparation for the 50th anniversary celebration of the fund that bears his mother’s name. “It lies rather in the ability…to ask the right questions at the outset. Think for a moment of the questions that could not even have been asked in 1937, that today can be asked because of the intervening flood of new answers.”
When Jane Coffin Childs died of cancer in 1936, her husband, Starling W. Childs, and her sister, Alice S. Coffin, decided to honor her memory by supporting research directed toward understanding and ultimately conquering the disease. Starling W. Childs believed that a university would provide the best setting for the proposed organization and, based on its reputation as a stimulating center for cancer research, Yale appeared to be the best choice. In June of 1937 — the same year that the federal government set up the National Cancer Institute — The Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research was established as a gift in trust to Yale University. It is overseen jointly by a Board of Managers, responsible for the administration of the Fund, and a Board of Scientific Advisors, which advises on or initiates all actions related to scientific matters.
Since its founding, the Fund has been committed to fundamental biological research and to free, unpressured, wide-ranging scientific inquiry in support of its central mission. In 1944, the Fellowship Program was initiated to provide support for promising researchers who had just received their doctorates. In 1976, the Fund initiated its Symposium program to inform and challenge the Fund’s fellows about problems in clinical medicine relating to cancer.
To date, the Fund has supported the work of nearly 1500 fellows, and it continues to attract and fund post doctoral fellows who are using cutting-edge technologies to understand basic biological mechanisms and their applications to cancer. The researchers and the research labs where the fellows conduct their projects have made major scientific contributions in areas such as the advancement of understanding the human genome, and the application of genetic approaches to understanding pathway regulation and stem cell activation. Nearly two dozen individuals associated with the Fund — as grantees, fellows and advisors — have won Nobel prizes in physiology, medicine and chemistry.
In celebrating our 75th anniversary, the Fund acknowledges particularly the extraordinarily distinguished group of scientists who have served over the years on our Board of Scientific Advisors. In the spirit of open inquiry and mutual support established by the Fund’s founders, they have brought expertise, a concern for excellence, and a dedication to service that have been largely responsible for shaping the original charitable gift into an effective force for asking the right questions, advancing medical research, and relieving human suffering.