Bloomberg News “The peak of my biomedical education was my Bio AP exam that I took in high school,” Bill Ackman said on Oct. 22 at the Galien Forum, one of the world’s leading science conferences. The CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management was there because Pershing Square Foundation has created a new prize for young, New York-based scientists.
“Basically, about a year ago I decided that the foundation had done a lot for education, economic empowerment, but really nothing in the field of health care, cancer research,” Ackman said. One of his inspirations was participating in the Sohn Investment Conference, named for Ira Sohn, a Wall Street professional who died of cancer at 29. Ackman decided to partner with the Sohn organization and make a $25 million grant, creating the Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance. “The problem is $25 million in the context of cancer is not a meaningful amount of money,” Ackman said. “I’m a capitalist, I look for inefficiencies in the markets.” He recruited Olivia Flatto, a scientist with experience in philanthropy. She in turn involved Marc Tessier-Lavigne, president of Rockefeller University, and Bill Doyle, executive chairman of Novocure.
Scientists Gap “Some of the best ideas, some of the most important work, is done” by young scientists, Ackman said. The Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators in Cancer Research will provide $200,000 annual grants to fund “high risk, high reward” laboratory work for two to three years. Five grants will be made in the first year. In his day job, Ackman said he hasn’t been an investor in science. “I’m going to meet some CEOs here, see if there are opportunities.” The CEOs at the conference included Ken Frazier of Merck & Co., Alex Gorsky of Johnson & Johnson, and John Lechleiter of Eli Lilly & Co.