James E Stowers, Jr. (1924-12014) must have understood exactly what are the very biggest problems and impediments for modern science before he and his wife founded and generously financed a wonderful new research institute. This large research center provides a dramatic new model for the funding of scientific research that avoids the dreadful problems now damaging science at universities. Part I will briefly relate his interesting history and the unusual organization of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research. Part II will explain in detail why this new direction for supporting scientific research is so unusual, very worthy of emulation, and giving hope that the dying science in modern universities can be rescued.
What sort of person was Jim Stowers?
Jim Stowers was born, raised, and educated in Missouri. Since he recently passed away at age 90, many publications describe his life story [e.g., 1-3]. With his father and grandfather being physicians, he first studied for some years at the University of Missouri Medical School before entering the US Army Air Force where he served as a fighter pilot in WW2. When back home, young Stowers became a business entrepreneur. In 1958 he set up Twentieth Century Mutual Funds, which concentrated on serving individual people; this private company grew under his leadership to later be renamed American Century Investments. That financial business was very successful and his personal fortune grew substantially as the firm became one of the largest mutual fund companies in the US.
Jim Stowers has co-authored several popular books including an autobiography (see image above under the title). He and his wife, Virginia, a professional nurse, have several children and grandchildren. Jim and Virginia Stowers each were stricken with cancer, but both fortunately became cancer survivors and dedicated philanthropists for science. In 1994, they targeted high quality science by founding the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in their hometown, Kansas City, Missouri. Their personal donations and endowment (Hope Shares Endowment) total around 2 billion dollars! Jim Stowers is quoted as saying, “My wife and I wanted to give back something more valuable than money to the millions of people who made our success possible, and we think that through science is the best way we can do it” .
A good recent video nicely illustrates the life and activities of Jim Stowers; “James E. Stowers, Jr. Tribute Video” is from American Century Investments, and is available on the internet at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3g531Fwi64&feature=youtu.be .
The Stowers Institute for Medical Research [1-3].
Since its opening in 2000, the Stowers Institute has grown to now have 22 research programs and over 500 research workers. Over 150 research projects by in-house scientists currently involve 75 postdocs, 58 graduate students, 80 research technicians, and 73 support scientists. In 2012, The Scientist magazine announced that their annual survey had found the Stowers Institute to rank in the top 3 places for scientists to work worldwide. Dr.M encourages everyone to take a look at the fascinating website of the Stowers Institute at: http://www.stowers.org/ .
The mission of the Stowers Institute is to conduct the highest quality scientific research in order to find and understand the secrets of life. By focusing innovative research on genes and proteins it aims to contribute to the betterment of people by its discoveries relating to the causes, treatments, and prevention of diseases. The Stowers Institute has a number of unusual features distinguishing it from other biomedical research centers. Unlike all universities, it is self-supported from the very large endowment from Jim and Virginia Stowers; this means that its faculty-level scientists do not need to spend time worrying about the vagaries of research grants, and instead can concentrate on vigorously doing significant research work. The size and purposeful organization of the endowment funds will generate ongoing income for the future expenses of this major research center.
Another unusual characteristic of the Stowers Institute is that its multidisciplinary teamwork-based approach is directed onto pure basic research (i.e., to be able to advance detection and clinical treatment of cancer and other difficult diseases, it is necessary to first understand very much more about the activities of genes and proteins in normal and pathological cells). The Stowers Institute is physically organized to facilitate internal collaborative interactions, and provides the many support services and facilities needed for research operations by its principal investigators (e.g., core labs, shared research equipment, technology centers, etc., with each staffed by technical experts).
Two good recent videos show the Stowers Institute and its activities for science. “NBC features the Stowers Institute for Medical Researh” is from American Century Investments, and is available on the internet at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMRIrk9nW8k . “The Stowers Institute for Medical Research – The Local Show” from station KCPT shows some research scientists in action at the Stowers Institute; it is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1quFJfeuG0o&spfreload=10 .
The BioMed Valley Discoveries organization.
The Stowers Institute, which features non-clinical basic research, is affiliated with the nearby BioMed Valley Discoveries, Inc., also funded by the Stowers endowment. This company (see: https://biomed-valley.com ) features applied pre-clinical and clinical research, by conducting new drug trials and clinical research investigations stemming from the basic findings at the Stowers Institute. Emphasis is given to translating advances from pure basic research into new and better clinical practices at the bedside of patients. It does not hesitate to work on disease-related projects considered unprofitable by the large pharmaceutical companies. Success in its ventures presumably will lead to later commercial developments that will add more funds to the Stowers endowment.
Everyone must admit that Jim and Virginia Stowers have made a big difference to biomedical science in the US. The Stowers Institute for Medical Research stands as a successful and inspiring new model for promoting research advances and science progress; this will be discussed in more detail in Part II. The payoff for the public will come later when new findings generated from innovative basic research at the Stowers Institute result in development of more effective clinical treatments for human diseases.
 The Stowers Institute for Medical Research, 2014. James E. Stowers, Jr. Available on the internet at: http://www.stowers.org/James-E-Stowers .
 American Century Investments, 2014. Innovator and philanthropist dedicated life to helping others. Available on the internet at: https://corporate.americancentury.com/content/americancentury/corporate/en/press/news-releases/2014/stowers-tribute.html .
 E. A. Harris, The New York Times, 2014. James E. Stowers, Jr., benefactor of medical research, dies at 90. Available on the internet at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/19/business/james-e-stowers-jr-benefactor-of-medical-research-dies-at-90.html .
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