• Helping Hands Program Update: Q3 2020 Trends
    December 7, 2020

    Our Helping Hands grantee social services organizations are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. We communicate with our Helping Hands grantee organizations informally throughout the year, and each quarter we ask them to report formally on program statistics, trends, and case studies. Based on the data and conversations with our grantee partners, it is clear that COVID-19 continues to impact Helping Hands grantees and the communities they serve dramatically. A number of our partners have exhausted their Helping Hands funds for the year, while others are bracing for the expected tsunami of need if eviction moratoriums are not extended or if government rent relief programs do not happen.

    Read Q3 Trend Report
  • Gerstner Grantees Provide Over 575,000 Thanksgiving Meal Boxes to Families in Need
    December 2, 2020

    Two of Gerstner Philanthropies’ long-standing grantees recently distributed 575,250 meal kits for the Thanksgiving holiday. Treasure Coast Food Bank, the largest hunger-relief organization on Florida’s Treasure Coast and the only Food Bank serving Indian River, Martin, St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties, distributed 575,000 holiday meal kits, which include a turkey and sides, to families; Gerstner Philanthropies provided funds for 400 turkeys distributed via the meal kits, as well as 151 turkeys for soup kitchens in the area. In Massachusetts, FamilyAid Boston, the leading provider of solutions to family homelessness in the Greater Boston area, delivered 250 meal kits, 200 of which were funded through a grant from Gerstner Philanthropies, to 800 unstably housed or homeless children and parents this Thanksgiving. Gerstner Philanthropies is proud to support families in need through meaningful programs such as these. (Photo Credit: Treasure Coast Food Bank)

    Learn more about Treasure Coast Food BankLearn more about FamilyAid Boston
  • New Fossil of Extinct Human Relative Suggests Climate Change Led to Rapid Evolution
    November 18, 2020

    A new fossil discovery in South Africa suggests that Paranthropus robustus, an extinct species that co-existed with early members of our own genus, Homo, may have evolved rapidly during a turbulent period of local climate change about 2 million years ago. “This is an incredibly well-preserved fossil that adds to the evolutionary story of this small-brained, large-toothed hominin from South Africa. The ability to document this level of anatomical detail in one of our extinct relatives is a rare and exciting opportunity for understanding human evolution,” said Carrie Mongle, a Gerstner Scholar and Postdoctoral Fellow at the Museum who was part of an international research team that discovered and described the specimen, one of the most complete skulls of P. robustus ever found, in a study published this week in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

  • Children Produce Different Antibodies in Response to New Coronavirus
    November 16, 2020

    Children and adults produce different types and amounts of antibodies in response to infection with the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, a new study from researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons has found. The differences in antibodies suggest the course of the infection and immune response is distinct in children and most children easily clear the virus from their bodies. “Our study provides an in-depth examination of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in kids, revealing a stark contrast with adults,” says Columbia University immunologist Donna Farber, PhD, the George H. Humphreys II Professor of Surgical Sciences in the Department of Surgery, who led the study with Matteo Porotto, PhD, associate professor of viral molecular pathogenesis in Columbia’s Department of Pediatrics. Major contributors to the study include Stuart Weisberg, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pathology & cell biology, and Thomas Connors, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics; Both are recent Gerstner Scholars who are working alongside Dr. Farber, their mentor through the Scholars program.

  • Study Identifies New “Hidden” Gene in COVID-19 Virus
    November 12, 2020

    Researchers have discovered a new “hidden” gene in SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes COVID-19—that may have contributed to its unique biology and pandemic potential. In a virus that only has about 15 genes in total, knowing more about this and other overlapping genes—or “genes within genes”—could have a significant impact on how we combat the virus. “Overlapping genes may be one of an arsenal of ways in which coronaviruses have evolved to replicate efficiently, thwart host immunity, or get themselves transmitted,” said lead author Chase Nelson, a postdoctoral researcher at Academia Sinica in Taiwan and a visiting scientist at the American Museum of Natural History. “Knowing that overlapping genes exist and how they function may reveal new avenues for coronavirus control, for example through antiviral drugs.” Prior to the pandemic, while working at the Museum as a Gerstner Scholar in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Nelson developed a computer program that screens genomes for patterns of genetic change that are unique to overlapping genes.