A Year of Changes

October 30, 2013
Steve Elledge, Director of the BSA, reflects on the current state of the Fund

This has been my first year as the Scientific Director and Chair of the Jane Coffin Childs Board of Scientific Advisers. My predecessor, Randy Schekman, asked me to join the board in 2010 and then asked me to return as his successor in 2013. He convinced me to join with his unbounded enthusiasm for the goals of the foundation: to identify and select the best and brightest young post-doctoral scientists for funding from our international pool of applicants and to provide a forum for the fellows to interact and share their science. The yearly fellow’s symposium is a star in the Jane Coffin Childs firmament and helps establish life-long connections between the fellows.

The Jane Coffin Childs Foundation enjoyed Randy’s strong guidance and steady leadership for nearly 20 years. Serving with Randy and observing his leadership style have been of tremendous help in assuming the Director’s role. I have found this experience to be thoroughly enjoyable. Interactions both with the stellar Board of Scientific Advisors and with the JCC fellows have been superb and I look forward to continuing these interactions moving forward.

The incredible impact the Jane Coffin Childs Foundation has made on scientific research was on full display with this year’s 75th Anniversary Symposium, which brought former fellows from all over the world together in New Haven for a day of exciting seminars. The science presented was absolutely magnificent and underscored the fact that today’s fellows will become tomorrow’s superstars of science.

This has been a difficult year financially for the scientific community. The sluggish economy, the stagnant NIH budget, combined with the Sequester brought about by political gridlock, has conspired to shrink the scientific enterprise precisely at the time of its greatest potential. This makes philanthropic organizations like the Jane Coffin Childs Foundation an ever more important component for keeping quality scientific endeavors intact. In 2012 we were able to fund 26 fellows through the combined largesse of the Childs endowment and additional support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Merck and Genentech who share our philosophy of investing in young scientists as a way to promote future scientific discovery. This year, I am proud to report that we have been able to fund 28 fellows through the generosity of the Simons Foundation, which agreed to fund two additional fellows this year. We are deeply indebted to these like-minded organizations for helping us carry out our mission.

I am truly grateful for my colleagues on the Board of Scientific Advisors for their selfless work on behalf of our JCC fellows. They are an amazing source of knowledge and collegiality upon which our program thrives. The Board of Scientific Advisors is a continually evolving entity. This year we say goodbye to Bonnie Bassler and Randy Schekman who have ended their terms. In their places we welcome Dan Littman from NYU and Pietro de Camilli from Yale who have agreed to join us. We are lucky indeed to count these outstanding scholars among our numbers who have agreed to generously donate their precious time, wisdom and scientific expertise to promote the future of science.