Broad Institute receives $100 million donation

Eli and Edythe Broad continue to contribute to their namesake genomics center

To build on a decade of biomedical research at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, the real estate magnate and philanthropist Eli Broad will announce Thursday that he and his wife, Edythe, are providing another $100 million to the genomics center that bears their name.

The unrestricted gift raises their total contributions to the institute to $700 million since they provided the initial money to start the center in 2003 — making the Broads the second-largest donors ever to a university, hospital, or research institute for biomedical research, institute officials said.

“We’re more than pleased with the progress they’ve made in the first 10 years, and we thought they needed more unrestricted money,” Broad said in a phone interview. “We thought this would induce others to contribute.”

He said the donations “may be the most important thing we do in our lifetime” and didn’t rule out providing more money to the institute in coming years. “I can’t tell you what we’ll do in five years,” he said.

The additional contribution comes two weeks after Mexican billionaire and philanthropist Carlos Slim Helú announced a $74 million gift to the institute to help correct a bias in genomic studies of human disease, which often analyze DNA from people of European descent. Slim’s money will be used to advance biomedical research that benefits people in Latin America.

The Broad Institute brings together biologists, physicians, chemists, computer scientists, and others from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Harvard-affiliated teaching hospitals to seek new ways to understand and treat human diseases. Over the past decade, institute officials said they have discovered genes and molecular underpinnings of diseases ranging from diabetes to cancer, and have begun revealing key vulnerabilities in cells that could be targeted by drugs.

In a phone interview, Eric Lander, founding director of the Broad Institute, called the additional contribution “stunning.”

“I want to emphasize how rare this is for someone to give such an unrestricted gift,” he said.

The institute got started with $200 million in contributions from the Broads, who made their fortune in the home-building and retirement savings businesses. They gave an additional $400 million for the institute’s endowment, which is now valued at about $560 million, Lander said.

The latest contribution will be applied in $20 million increments to research projects over the next five years, which will expand the institute’s annual operating budget of about $270 million, Lander said.

“I have no doubt that there will be remarkable projects that will be competing for the opportunity to launch based on this gift,” he said.

Lander and his colleagues are mulling what to do with the additional money, but he expects the gift will be used to try designing drugs and other treatments to capitalize on the findings over the past decade.

“We’re hoping to translate the discoveries of the root causes of disease into clinical therapies,” he said.

MIT president Rafael Reif and Harvard president Drew Faust issued statements lauding the gift. “Society as a whole will reap the benefits,” Reif said, “for generations to come.”