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Fundamental Science

History has shown, time and again, that basic research provides the knowledge that leads to life-saving medical breakthroughs. At Rockefeller University, fundamental science is transforming medicine in numerous ways. To cite a few key examples:

  • Hepatitis C can now be cured because basic research in virology by a current Rockefeller lab provided the means to design and test experimental drugs. Chronic HepC infection afflicts up to 150 million people worldwide and has been associated with 700,000 deaths a year.
  • CRISPR, the gene editing technology that is driving pharma and biotech initiatives, started with the discovery of curious patterns in bacterial DNA that took years to understand. A current Rockefeller microbiologist did some of the most important sleuthing.
  • Antibodies that provide long-term suppression of HIV infection are being developed by a Rockefeller laboratory whose basic research helped to create the burgeoning field of immunotherapy. Pre-clinical testing is under way.

George Porter, a British Nobel laureate in chemistry, is remembered for saying that there are two kinds of research: applied and yet-to-be applied. Rockefeller University is committed to conducting outstanding basic research that will find its applications in tomorrow’s cures.

Rockefeller advances basic research by hiring only the most promising investigators, who benefit from a stimulating intellectual environment, leading-edge technology, and–perhaps most important of all—the time it takes to answer the big questions that will revolutionize the treatment and prevention of disease. With rare exceptions, such exploratory research is funded by private support, rather than federal grants.

The University’s unparalleled track record of excellence in basic research began with the generosity of its founders. The vision and generosity of philanthropists are essential to the University today.