The Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research (known colloquially as the JCC Fund) was established in 1937 for the purpose of supporting research into the causes and treatment of cancer. The Fund has taken a broad approach to the study of cell growth and development, emphasizing the study of the basic biology and chemistry of the underlying processes. The Fund has increasingly focused its resources on the funding of three-year postdoctoral Fellowships, supporting Fellows selected by its Board of Scientific Advisers from among the best young scientists at what is often a critical stage in their careers. As a result, there have been over 1,600 Jane Coffin Childs Fellows doing basic cancer-related research in laboratories in North America, Europe, Japan and Australia.
The great strength of this enterprise is its Board of Scientific Advisers, both the standing of its members, and the rigorous, highly informed selection process it carries out each year. This strength is underutilized. The JCC Fund supports between twenty-five and thirty new three-year Fellowships each year. Given enough funding, as many as forty Fellowships could be granted each year without any diminution in quality. Accordingly, the JCC Fund invites others to use this process to qualify Fellowships. The current Fellowship stipend level is $51,500 a year. The JCC Fund can handle all ongoing administrative costs, so funds raised from Fellowship Sponsors go entirely to funding their Fellowships.
From the start the Fund has been fortunate to enlist the services of distinguished and dedicated scientists for its Board of Scientific Advisers. Since its inception the Board has included seventeen recipients of the Nobel Prize, as well as numerous recipients of other prestigious scientific awards. The achievements of its members are well known to young scientists around the world. As a result, many of the top young molecular biologists apply for a highly prized JCC Fellowship. Each year over three hundred and fifty applications for fellowship projects housed in most of the top academic laboratories in North America are received and evaluated by the Board of Scientific Advisers.
Between twenty-five and thirty three-year Fellowships are awarded annually. Most of these Fellowships are funded from the resources of the JCC Fund itself. A Board of Managers consisting principally of members of the Childs family manages the endowment. Each year ten to thirteen of the Fellowships are funded with monies raised from industry (Merck and Genentech), or from individuals, organizations (HHMI and Simons Foundation) and from anonymous resources. The funding from industry comes without conditions, except the right to name a Fellowship (e.g. The Merck Fellow of The Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund). The Fund has a small full-time staff, located in the Yale Medical School, which takes care of all administrative needs.
Each year a weekend Symposium is organized by one or two members of The Board of Scientific Advisers Challenges in Biomedical Sciences: Research from the Fellows Perspective. All Fellows are invited with the second year fellows reporting on the status of their projects in the form of an abstract and poster presentation; much of the action at the Symposium takes place in front of the poster boards, as other Fellows and members of The Board of Scientific Advisers focus on particular projects. The main program is a presentation by the third-year fellows of their projects in the form of a fifteen-minute talk with a question and answer session. When Starling W. Childs established the JCC Fund in 1937, he stressed the need for maximum communication amongst those focused on the war on cancer. He was ahead of his time.