Support of the National Institutes of Health: Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, 1942

Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society (Duke)



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Mary Lasker, who herself had no background as a scientist, felt that the support of basic research into the causes of disease and disability was the key to finding cures. Deciding that the federal government was the only possible source of funds large enough to fund adequately the level of research she envisioned, Mary Lasker, as president of the Lasker Foundation, set out in the 1940s on an advocacy campaign that would last for the rest of her long life.

Mrs. Lasker began by making use of her and her husband’s social and political connections to encourage members of Congress, as well as White House officials, to support increased appropriations for the study of disease. The primary beneficiary of Lasker’s work was the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

By continually encouraging Congress and the White House of the need for further research dollars, Mrs. Lasker became the primary advocate behind a massive increase of federal research dollars. In 1945, appropriations to NIH totaled about $2.4 million. By 1985, this amount had skyrocketed to $5.5 billion, and by 2004 the NIH budget topped $27.8 billion.



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