The University Record, February 5, 2001

Anonymous $3 million gift to Ford School of Public Policy will help build research, education program in life sciences

By Bernie DeGroat
News and Information Services

The Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy is located in Lorch Hall. Photo by Bill Wood, U-M Photo Services
The Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy will receive a $3 million gift from an anonymous donor to use as a first step in establishing a Life Sciences Policy Center. The gift is the largest donation the school has ever received.

The money, which will be given to the Ford School over a multiple-year period, will enable the school to begin developing a research and education program for faculty and students interested in life sciences and genomic policy issues.

“I’m very excited about the prospect of building a component of the Ford School that deals with life sciences policy,” says Ford School Dean Rebecca Blank. “We are extremely grateful to the donor for having the foresight and imagination to come forward to establish such an important center at the Ford School.

“This gift enables us to take the lead among other policy schools in this type of work. I hope that this gift may become a catalyst as we approach other donors and corporate foundations in order to raise additional funds. It also affords us the opportunity to work with the University’s Life Sciences Values and Society Program.”

The donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, is pleased that the Ford School will use the gift for the study of life sciences policy.

“Technology breakthroughs in life sciences promise to transform our lives and social institutions even more profoundly than the information technology revolution,” the donor says. “These events also promise to explode the number of new public policy issues requiring thoughtful, creative and disciplined analysis.

“The intent of this gift is to invest in developing these new intellectual and professional competencies by building on the framework of the University’s current initiatives and strong commitment to both life sciences and public policy. The University’s current leadership and strategy,” the donor adds, “is providing a unique historical moment to collaborate philanthropically and to impact our society and our world, an opportunity that I seriously hope many others will come to recognize and support.”

According to Blank, the kinds of questions posed by new life sciences technologies include:

  • How do expanded life spans and delayed aging affect Social Security and pension programs?

  • In a world in which future medical risks can be much better identified, how should health insurance programs be designed and funded?

  • How should the government regulate the new life sciences technologies?

  • How should patent systems for these technologies be designed?

  • How can we create international coordination around regulation and patent systems?

  • What sort of affordability, access and distribution issues are raised with new technologies for medical testing or fertility control?

  • How should the government be involved in assuring privacy of medical information? Who should and who shouldn’t have access to this?

    Ford School Development Director Beth Johnson says that the school eventually will need $10 million to fully fund the Life Sciences Policy Center.

    The $3 million gift to the Ford School supports the Life Sciences Initiative, the U-M’s effort to coordinate and expand its research and teaching in the life sciences and related fields.

    The Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy was officially named after former President Ford last September. It is in the early stages of raising $30 million for endowment and for the construction of an addition to Lorch Hall. This anonymous gift brings the total raised to date to nearly $12 million.