Meet a Philanthropist Keen on Stem Cells

“I believe there will be a renaissance in the life sciences over the next decade, similar to what happened in the technology and physical sciences sector—and I think stem cell research will lead the way."

Those are the words of Mike Vranos, founder of Ellington Management Group, an investment and advisory firm headquartered in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. His Vranos Family Foundation has directed at least $3 million to Harvard in the three most recent tax years alone toward this area. Harvard alum Vranos and his wife Anna-Karin are big stem cell patrons at Harvard: their steady giving there funded the Michael and Anna Vranos Graduate Fellowship Fund in the Life Sciences, the Vranos Family Junior Faculty Development Fund for Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, and the Vranos Family Graduate Research Fellowship in Developmental and Regenerative Biology.

One Vranos Fellowship recipient out of the Goessling Lab in Boston is interested in signaling pathways that control liver development and growth, and how the deregulation of these pathways leads to liver carcinogenesis.

OK, so how did Vranos, a Wall Streeter and Harvard math major, get interested in this niche in the first place? 

Well, the story involves a Harvard professor. The Vranoses met with professor Doug Melton, co-director of Harvard's Stem Cell Institute and an influential scientist who's played a strong role in stem cell science. The couple were fascinated by Melton's research and started supporting life sciences work. Of course, if you're a faithful reader of IP's Higher Ed category, it shouldn't surprise you to see a professor playing a role in campus giving. Melton, by the way, is also a house master of Eliot House, the very residence where Vranos lived decades back as a math concentration. 

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Apart from the Vranos family's work at Harvard via their family foundation, they support other schools, engage in health philanthropy, and even a few organizations that work on a global level. In health, another interest appears to be brain and behavioral disorders—the couple supports organizations like Autism Speaks, INSPIRE for Autism, and NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. 

Expect stem cell research to be a top priority going forward.  For a full overview of this funder's work, read our profile of Mike Vranos linked below. 

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