Broad Institute gets $20M to target TB from Wall Street-led philanthropists

Hedge fund managers are so flush that now they're giving money away. A pair of prominent fund heads have led a collection of wealthy individuals to back a project at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard researching the bacteria behind tuberculosis with $20 million. The goal is to better understand the bacteria itself, as well as how drug resistance forms in it and to develop a rapid diagnostic test for drug-resistant TB.

Seth Klarman

Seth Klarman, president and CEO of The Baupost Group, and Bill Ackman, co-founder of The Pershing Square Foundation and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, worked together to rally more than 20 undisclosed philanthropists from New York and Boston to back the project.

"Drug resistant TB is a quiet crisis in global health," said Ackman in a statement. "This epidemic deserves more attention and resources than it's getting."

Every year, more than two billion people are infected with tuberculosis and nearly two million of them die. These deaths are increasingly linked to drug-resistant TB strains, with nearly 100 countries, including the U.S. reporting cases of it.

The Broad Institute researchers plan to use genetically altered strains of TB to advance the understanding of disease treatment and the process of antibiotic resistance development. Current treatments can require up to 6 months of antibiotics; many patients will stop taking the drugs once they feel better, which helps drive drug resistance.

"It has become increasingly clear that we need to develop a new set of tools for those on the front lines," said Klarman in a statement. "There is enormous leverage in this project. The first $20 million is going to help propel advances that will inspire and attract further investment. And as a result, millions of people around the world will benefit." He has been a member of the Broad Institute's board since 2009.

The Broad TB research team includes Drs. Jim Collins, Stewart Fisher, Deborah Hung, Eric Rubin and Ramnik Xavier.

- here is the release