L.A. Now

A busy week for the Broad philanthropies

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation named a high-ranking White House official as its first president this week. In addition, the Broads announced a $100-million gift to their institute focused on biomedical research in Cambridge, Mass.

The moves reflect the significant interest the Broads have in education and research throughout the country.

The foundation tapped Bruce Reed, Vice President Joe Biden's chief of staff for nearly three years, to oversee its Los Angeles-based philanthropic group that backs efforts to improve urban public schools.

Founder Eli Broad said in a statement announcing the move that Reed's "strategic insights, energy and passion for elevating education to a national priority make him an ideal partner in our work."

Reed has served in senior positions in both the Obama and Clinton administrations and will join the foundation in mid-December.

Reed has been involved in education policy since he worked for then-Sen. Al Gore (D-Tenn.) in the 1980s. He went on to become the policy chief for Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992, then worked in the White House for eight years, becoming domestic policy advisor in Clinton's second term.

Reed then became policy director and later president of the Democratic Leadership Council, a centrist Democratic group.

Before joining Biden's staff at the beginning of 2011, Reed was executive director of the Simpson-Bowles commission that President Obama appointed in 2010 to address the nation's deficit and debt challenges.

The foundation has led numerous efforts to change public schools nationwide. Opponents accuse the foundation and its allies of pursuing a corporate agenda that undermines teacher unions.

A day after the Reed announcement, the Broads said they had made their fourth large gift to the Broad Institute in Cambridge, where scientists from Harvard and MIT, including biologists, doctors and computer scientists, conduct research.

They have discovered hundreds of genes that lead to cancer, diabetes and other diseases. The scientists have also developed drugs that can target those diseases.

Over the next decade, scientists will focus on developing road maps to treat other diseases.

"Our goal is to enable the Broad Institute community to continue to take bold risks, bring together the brightest minds in the field and pursue game-changing breakthroughs that are needed to make a difference in science and medicine," Broad said in a statement.

The gift brings the couple's total donations to the Broad Institute to $700 million since it was founded about a decade ago.

At a ceremony at the institute earlier this week, Eli Broad said that some of the work done at the institute was still confusing to him.

"I confess that we don't understand all of the science. But one thing we do know: The work you are doing has the potential to improve human health. And that's all we really need to know," he said.

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