$75m gift to Harvard Medical School will advance basic scientific discovery and therapeutic science

Ernesto Bertarelli with HMS Dean George Q. Daley and Harvard University’s next President Claudine Gay on the HMS campus in the courtyard of Building C, which will be enclosed to create a new sky-lit atrium Image: Gretchen Ertl

New atrium will be created and iconic campus building to be renamed

The Bertarelli Foundation has pledged $75 million to advance basic scientific discovery and therapeutic science at Harvard Medical School (HMS). The gift will set in motion plans to transform the outdoor courtyard of Building C – the last remaining unnamed building on the School’s iconic quadrangle in the heart of Boston’s Longwood Medical Area (LMA) – into an expansive, sky-lit atrium that will serve as convening and collaboration space for occupants of the building as well as the broader HMS community. In recognition of the gift, Building C will be named the Bertarelli Building following completion of the atrium’s construction.

“HMS is a world leader in health care innovation, translational research and cutting-edge discovery, and it continues to have an immense impact on the health and wellbeing of humankind,”, said Ernesto Bertarelli. “It has been my honour to have been a partner of the School for over two decades and I am delighted to continue to support the HMS community in its important work by helping to modernize these landmark facilities to keep pace with therapeutics innovation.” 

“Ernesto Bertarelli is an ardent supporter of both fundamental and translational research at Harvard Medical School,” says HMS Dean George Q. Daley. “He understands that in order to improve the health and well-being of patients, we must first support observations in the lab and then nurture and orient them toward interventions in the clinic. It is therefore fitting that the Bertarelli name will be inscribed in the marble of the building that personifies our commitment to both basic and therapeutic science.”

In addition to housing the departments of Cell Biology and of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Building C – or the Bertarelli Building – serves as a hub for the HMS Therapeutics Initiative, which aims to advance therapeutics research, accelerate translation of discoveries into medicines, and educate and train the inventors of future medicines.

It is home to the recently opened Blavatnik Harvard Life Lab Longwood, a centerpiece of the Therapeutics Initiative that provides collaborative workspaces for early-stage, high-potential biotech and life sciences startups founded by Harvard students, alumni, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty.

“The Therapeutics Initiative is working to address the impediments that can hinder an idea in the lab from progressing toward a medicine,” says Executive Director of Therapeutics Translation Mark Namchuk. “A critical component to transiting that science is building the infrastructure where both basic and translational science can be supported, and Ernesto Bertarelli is doing just that with his generous gift.”

The planned atrium project, which is anticipated to begin in 2023 and be completed in 2025, includes enclosing the building’s existing outdoor courtyard, which is situated between the wet lab and dry lab arms of the Blavatnik Life Lab. The Building C façade was recently restored and will be preserved, and the new spaces housed within the atrium will be integrated into HMS’ historic campus fabric.

Ernesto Bertarelli with HMS Dean George Q. Daley and Harvard University’s next President Claudine Gay on the HMS campus

“The combination of breakthrough science and empowering partnerships, like the one with Mr. Bertarelli, that animates the LMA is nothing short of inspiring,” says Harvard President-elect Claudine Gay. “You can feel the future of human health taking shape around you.”

“I am honored that the Bertarelli name will become a permanent and prominent part of the Medical School’s quadrangle,” said Harvard University president Larry Bacow. “Ernesto is a great friend of Harvard and to me personally. His ambitious vision is exceeded only by his unwavering support. Harvard is all the better for both.”

The Foundation has been a long-term partner of Harvard Medical School for over a decade. The Bertarelli Program in Translational Neuroscience and Neuroengineering was established in 2010 to bridge the gap between basic and translational neuroscience, with its most recent symposium held in October 2022. It also endowed the Bertarelli Professorship in Translational Medical Science, held by David Corey, while the Bertarelli Rare Cancers Fund was established in 2019 by Dona Bertarelli. Ernesto, who is the current chair of the HMS Board of Fellows, has been a trusted and valued advisor to Deans of the School for over two decades.