Eileen and Larry Tietze: Changing the Future of Medicine, One Award at a Time

For those who know Eileen and Larry Tietze, it isn’t surprising that they are among the very earliest supporters of the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine (ISCRM), as well as some of the most impactful. Investing in the potential of ideas and in the promise of people is the hallmark of their philanthropy.

In 2006, Eileen and Larry were introduced to ISCRM, then in its nascent stages, through a friend. They were immediately taken by the power of the concept: ISCRM was breaking down the walls between stem cell scientists, biologists, pathologists, physicians, and other researchers to leverage the expertise of multiple disciplines. The end result: real progress in understanding and curing disease. The couple knew they wanted to play a part. They made their initial investment through their family’s foundation, in the form of an award to support the work of a young scientist. At that moment, they had no way of knowing just how powerful a force they had set in motion.

Their first $25,000 award allowed Dr. Hannele Ruohola-Baker to purchase a piece of equipment vital to the work of her lab; the equipment allowed researchers to very rapidly analyze molecules that play a crucial role in how stem cells differentiate into other cell types. The acceleration of the research made possible by the new equipment led to Dr. Ruohola-Baker’s lab securing millions of additional dollars in government grants to support research in a multitude of disease areas

“A gift of $25,000 is not big money for many foundations,” Eileen notes. “But it is big money if you’re a researcher and need it to do your work.” The Tietzes were thrilled by the high return on their investment, and the annual Tietze Research Awards were born. Over the last 12 years, the Tietze’s family foundation has committed more than two million dollars to fuel the work of dozens of young ISCRM scientists.

Eileen and Larry Tietze with the 2018 Tietze Young Scientist Awardees

Perhaps even more important than the financial support provided by the Tietze Awards is the confidence that they instill at a critical point in a scientist’s career. ISCRM Director Dr. Charles Murry observes that “The intangible effect of this support on young scientists’ morale may have as big of an effect as the dollars themselves.”

“We feel it’s important to take a chance on young scientists,” Eileen underscores. “Young scientists are the ones coming up with the new ideas and often are willing to take risks that more established scientists might not.” The promising advances resulting from these investments has inspired others to join the Tietzes in their philanthropy. Eileen and Larry’s incredible support—one award at a time—has left an indelible mark on both on the Institute and the field of stem cell medicine.