The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation's Tropical Disease Research Program

Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society (Duke)



Case Study Sector


Michael Bailin, the newly appointed president of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, had been brought in to evaluate the Foundation's programs, including the longstanding Tropical Disease Research Program, which as doing work in two areas, onchocersiasis and trachoma. The field of onchocersiasis vaccine research was relatively stable and self-sufficient. Clark Foundation trustees had been discussing exiting onchocersiasis for the past three years. As for the trachoma program, the Foundation was already two years beyond its previously stated target exit date. Opinions varied as to the degree of responsibility that foundations should assume with regard to their scientific fields of investment. Scientific research often needed a considerable time commitment, and critics argued that to initiate a field of research and exit it prematurely could to more harm than good. On the other hand, foundations could not be expected to commit to initiatives indefinitely. Development of an onchocersiasis vaccine still appeared to be years, if not decades, away. Likewise, the Foundation had been supporting trachoma research for over a decade. Was it time to shutter the Tropical Disease Research Program?



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