RenTech Founder Donation Establishes Quantitative Biology Institute

Jul 8 2014 | 5:19am ET

James Simons used math to make his fortune, and he’s dedicating some of it to using math to study disease.

Simons and his wife have given $50 million to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. The money will establish the Simons Center for Quantitative Biology, at which applied mathematicians, computer scientists and theoretical physicists will employ their expertise and algorithms towards analyzing biological data. It will focus on diseases such as cancer, autism, bipolar disorder and depression.

CSHL is one of the most prestigious centers for the study of biology, having employed eight Nobel Prize winners, most notably James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA. Watson led the lab, which is about 25 miles west of Renaissance Technologies’ Long Island headquarters, for a quarter of a century. It is also near the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where Simons led the math department before founding his hedge fund, and which was the beneficiary of a $150 million gift from the Simons in 2011.

Simons’ wife, Marilyn, is vice chairman of the CSHL board of trustees. The lab’s chairman, Jamie Nicholls, called the donation a “transformative” gift.

The Simons Center will be led by Adam Siepel, who comes to CSHL from Cornell University.

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