Med School Gets Huge Gift

Newton Man Creates 'Funds for Discovery' Grant Program

A Newton, Mass, inventor and entrepreneur has given Harvard Medical School its largest gift ever from an individual creating a fund which will provide grants totalling $500,000 annually.

Although neither the donor, John Taplin, nor the Medical School announced the size of the donation, an endowment yielding the interest necessary to operate the grants program would likely have to be near $10 million.

The program--to be called "funds for Discovery"--will provide 10 grants of $50,000 each annually to assistant and associate professors at the Medical School, the Dental School and the New England Primate Center.

Taplin said yesterday he donated the gift to encourage academics to develop "something that will improve the health and welfare of human beings."

The program succeeds the National Health Research Foundation, a similar program founded by Taplin in 1978. Besides Harvard's ownership of the endowment under the new program, Taplin said he hoped the new program would have a "more focused and defined objective."


Taplin himself, an engineer, has invented several items, including a leak-free piston seal to reduce pollutants from vehicle exhausts which is now widely used. Other Taplin creations include devices to regulate cabin pressure in high-altitude aircraft and speed controls for aircraft engines.

Taplin said that a grant application would go first to a Faculty Advisory Board, which would assess the academic value of the proposal. The board will be chaired by Stanley J. Adelstein, the executive dean for academic programs at the Medical School.

Other board members will include AndrusProfessor of Genetics Philip Leder, PuseyProfessor of Neurobiology Gerald D. Fischbach,Lehman Professor of Microbiology and MolecularGenetics Bernard N. Fields and PathologyDepartment Head Peter Howley.

The advisory board will then send the bestproposals to a committee chaired by Taplin, whichwill evaluate which applicants are most likely to"have their ideas converted into reality," hesaid.

"It doesn't do much good to write a paper andnever have it used," Taplin explained.

Other members of his committee include M. JudahFolkman, Andrus professor of pediatric surgery;Elkan R. Blout, Harkness professor of biologicalchemistry and molecular pharmacology; MichaelRosenblatt, lecturer on medicine; Christopher T.Walsh, president of the Dana-Farber Institute; andJoyce Britain of the Office of TechnologyLicensing and Industry.

According to a Medical School news release,Dean of the Medical School Daniel C. Tosteson '44called Taplin's gift for the new program "awonderful expression of the thoughtful generosityand creative energy of John Taplin, who has doneso much to support research at the School."

"No one could be more suited to the role ofleading such a fund than John," Tosteson said."His life has been devoted to discoveries that arehelpful to people."

Taplin is longtime supporter of the MedicalSchool, endowing the Edward Hood Taplinprofessorship at the Harvard-M.I.T. division ofhealth science and technology to honor the memoryof his brother