Garry Shandling was a well-known comedian, writer and performer. He was also a dedicated mentor for younger people. Through an initial connection made through UCLA Health, Dr. Otto Yang, Professor of Medicine and Associate Chief of Infectious Diseases at UCLA Health, formed a close friendship with Garry. They frequently talked about the challenges of funding medical research, mentoring students, and concerns about the future of innovative treatments and patient care. Tragically, Garry died unexpectedly in March 2016. Unbeknownst to Dr. Yang, Garry provided a generous bequest to UCLA including a significant donation to support Dr. Yang’s work. In tribute to Garry’s generosity and kindness, and in partnership with his collaborator, Dr. Peter Anton, founding Director of the UCLA Center For HIV Prevention Research, Dr. Yang formed the Shandling Biomedical Future Fund. The Fund, managed by UCLA Health, supports cutting-edge biomedical research and fosters the careers of new physician-scientists who will be the future leaders in biomedical research.
Why should you support the Shandling fund?
Did you know that medical research laboratories at UCLA are not generally funded by UCLA? Most people are surprised to know that professors have to find their own funding to support their laboratories, including supplies, equipment, staff salaries, and other operating expenses usually from competitive U.S. government grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The annual cost of running laboratory such as the ones run by Dr. Yang and Dr. Anton can be over $1M.
Sadly, funding of medical research is increasingly scarce and political. Scientists running laboratories have increasingly onerous pressures to apply for competitive grants to support their work, taking their efforts away from the science itself. Over the past 10 years, there has been a continuous downward trend in funding from the NIH and other sources such as foundations. Consequently, many academic research laboratories have been downsizing and shutting down, and many researchers are retiring early, with their staffs’ and students’ careers upended.
Changes to NIH priorities brought on by reduced funding have choked academic creativity. Limited funds have caused NIH to prioritize short-term results; support for innovative, out-of-the-box “risky research” has become nearly impossible to get. Increasingly, NIH micromanages research agendas rather than letting independent scientists choose their leads.
As a further consequence, young investigators, particularly physician-scientists, are discouraged and their career paths imperiled. The cost of medical education has skyrocketed, and investing extra years of training at a relatively low salary to face the uncertainty of obtaining the funding needed to succeed in biomedical research is increasingly untenable. The typical trainee completes an MD and PhD and finishes residency in their early 30s. The average age that they get their first major NIH grant is about 45. Surviving that gap requires dedicated mentoring with strong financial support, almost to the level of an apprenticeship. Without the dedicated investment of mentorship and support from established research scientists like Drs. Yang and Anton, the careers of such younger physician-scientists wither and they leave academia or never embark on an academic career in the first place. The result: less innovation, fewer physician-scientists, and fewer solutions for medical challenges for us all.
Shandling Biomedical Future Fund Goals:
The goals of the Shandling Biomedical Future Fund are to:
1. Build on the seed money from Garry Shandling and raise significant additional funds to establish a permanent endowment to support biomedical research;
2. Invest in the careers of new physician-scientist leaders; and
3. Stimulate the development new treatments not even yet envisioned, free from the financial and political constraints of NIH funding.
Please help make these goals a reality by donating to the Garry Shandling Biomedical Future Fund.