The Searle Funds are a donor-advised fund administered by the Chicago Community Trust that was created in 1980 from the estate of John D. Searle, whose grandfather founded the G.D. Searle pharmaceutical company. The Funds’ primary activity is supporting the Searle Scholars, which gives three-year grants to assistant professors conducting biomedical research. In the program’s history, two Searle Scholars have become Nobel Laureates. The funds also support biomedical research in the Chicago area, a program designed to support urban farms in Chicago, and public-policy programs in welfare and immigration policy.
John G. Searle was the grandson of Gideon Searle, founder of the G.D Searle pharmaceutical company. In 1980, his estate set up the Searle Funds, administered by the Chicago Community Trust. In 1995 the Searle family created the Kinship Foundation, which makes grants to the Searle Funds. 1
The funds’ primary purpose is administering the Searle Scholars program, which provides tenure-track assistant professors working at 168 colleges and universities with three-year research grants of $100,000 per year. Since 1980, 632 Searle Scholars have been named, including 15 in 2022, and these scholars have received $143 million in grants. 2
Two Searle Scholars have subsequently won Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, most recently Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, who shared the 2020 Prize for her work on the gene-editing technology CRISPR after having received a Searle Scholarship for 1996. 3 4 Previously, the late Roger Tsien, a Searle Scholar for 1983, 5 had shared the 2008 Nobel “for the discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, GFP.” 6
Chicago Biomedical Consortium
In 2001 Daniel C. Searle, who subsequently founded the Searle Freedom Trust, set up a pilot program to encourage collaboration between scientists conducting biomedical research at the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois-Chicago, Northwestern University, and other universities in the Chicago area. In 2004, the Searle Funds provided $1.5 million for a demonstration project. The Chicago Biomedical Consortium began operations in 2005 and received $5 million per year from the Searle Funds from 2006 through 2010, with the funds continuing to support the consortium through 2021. The consortium says that from 2005 through 2020, it has supported research that produced 2,650 papers and led to $856.4 million in additional grants. 7
Food:Land:Opportunity is a non-profit jointly funded by the Kinship Foundation through the Searle Funds and the Chicago Community Trust that supports farming in the Chicago area, including programs that encourage entrepreneurship among farmers and acquiring land for farms. 8
Other activities supported by this organization included distributing boxes of good grown in Michigan and Indiana at Chicago public schools and hospitals 9and, in collaboration with the Land Conservancy of McHenry County, supporting the screening of a documentary about Mexican farm workers in the U.S. 10
In 2006 the Searle Funds and the MacArthur Foundation conducted a pilot program where low-income families in Chicago were given points keeping their house clean, finding a job, or getting a high-school equivalency degree. The points could be redeemed for non-cash rewards including gift certificates. 11 Another Searle Funds program supported low-income working parents to improve themselves by granting laptops, access to online courses, and career assessments with counselors. 12
- “Program History,” Searle Scholars Program, https://www.searlescholars.net/about-us/program-history (accessed May 27, 2022).
-  “Program History,” Searle Scholars Program, https://www.searlescholars.net/about-us/program-history (accessed May 27, 2022)
- “Jennifer A. Doudna.” Searle Scholars Program. Accessed May 31, 2022. https://www.searlescholars.net/people/jennifer-a-doudna.
- Walter Isaacson published a biography of Doudna, The Code Breaker, in 2021. For an interview see Terry Gross, “CRISPR Scientist’s Biography Explores Ethics of Writing the Code of Life,” NPR, March 8, 2021, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/03/08/974751834/crispr-scientists-biography-explores-ethics-of-rewriting-the-code-of-life (Accessed May 27, 2022)
- “Roger Y. Tsien.” Searle Scholars Program. Accessed May 31, 2022. https://www.searlescholars.net/people/roger-y-tsien.
- “The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2008.” NobelPrize.org. Accessed May 31, 2022. https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/chemistry/2008/summary/.
- History,” Chicago Biomedical Consortium, https://chicagobiomedicalconsortium.org/about/history/ (accessed May 27, 2022))
- “Theory of Change,” Food:Land:Opportunity, https://foodlandopportunity.org/theory-of-change/ (accessed May 27, 2022)
- “FarmLogix Launches Local Fam Boxes in Communities Across Chicago,” press release from FarmLogix, April 24, 2018/
-  “Documentary Sheds Light On ‘Guest Workers’ and immigration,” Arlington Heights (Illinois) Daily Herald, April 10, 2022.
- Jonathan Eig, “Extra Credit: Poverty Program Gives Points To Do The Right Thing,” Wall Street Journal, July 7, 2005.
- Barbara Rose, “Online Advancements: At-Home Learning Program Helps Low-Income Parents Gain Needed Skills,” Chicago Tribune, October 4, 2007.