Gerstner Philanthropies focuses on biomedical research, educational opportunities, environmental sustainability, and assistance for people who have suffered a temporary setback and could use a “helping hand” to restore their equilibrium.

Program Areas

In addition, we make a small number of grants related to or outside of these areas of focus.


  • Researchers at the Broad Institute and MIT Develop Primers to Improve Liquid Biopsy for Cancer Detection and Monitoring

    Scientists from the Gerstner Center for Cancer Diagnostics at the Broad Institute and their colleagues at MIT have developed two agents that could one day be given to patients shortly before a blood draw to allow physicians to better detect tumor DNA using liquid biopsy. Liquid biopsies have the potential to transform how cancers are diagnosed, monitored, and treated by detecting DNA that tumors shed into the blood, but the body presents a significant challenge. Immune cells in the liver and DNA-degrading enzymes in blood remove circulating tumor DNA from the bloodstream within minutes, making this DNA difficult to capture and detect in a blood test. Now, researchers at MIT and the Broad Institute have developed injectable "priming agents" that enhance liquid biopsy accuracy. These agents, using nanoparticles and antibodies, significantly increase the detection of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in the bloodstream. In mouse trials, these agents boosted ctDNA by over 10 times, improving the detection rate from below 10% to over 75%. This breakthrough could not only transform cancer diagnostics but also holds promise for other health areas. Director of the Gerstner Center for Cancer Diagnostics, Viktor Adalsteinsson shared “Boosting circulating tumor DNA in blood is just the tip of the iceberg… Priming is a new frontier we’re excited to further develop in cancer diagnostics and beyond.”

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Reflections on Helping Hands

Lou Gerstner shares the origin of and his vision for the emergency grants program, lessons learned over the past decade, and his belief in the critical importance of the work.

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