The Rainin Foundation provides early support for novel ideas that can lead to improvements in preventing, diagnosing and treating Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

The Health Program Evolves

The youngest of our three funding areas, the Health program has been providing grants to advance Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) research for six years. But 2016 was a year of steady evolution and maturation for the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, and our Health program was no exception. Under the leadership of Laura Wilson, PhD, who joined the Foundation as Director of Health Strategies & Ventures, the program continues to support high-risk, high-reward projects and partnerships, while expanding its funding into new directions.

“It was a turning point for us to bring in Laura Wilson as Director of Health Strategy & Ventures in 2016. Her strategic direction for the program, collaborations with leading scientific and medical researchers, and partnerships with international stakeholders are critical to advancing innovative Inflammatory Bowel Disease research.”

Jennifer Rainin PhD, Chief Executive Officer

Number of 2016 Rainin Foundation grant recipients at US & international institutions conducting Inflammatory Bowel Disease research


230 abstracts, posters, peer-reviewed articles, and patent filings have been created by our Health grantees


Amount invested by the Rainin Foundation in 2016 to support cutting-edge Inflammatory Bowel Disease research

Our investments are enabling researchers to test ideas and gather data to advance the understanding of Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Accelerating Development of Novel Treatments

Translational research ensures we connect exciting scientific findings to relevant clinical impact for the patient. It includes, but is not limited to, applying discoveries generated through laboratory-based research and preclinical studies to developing trials and further studies in humans. As a funder of novel ideas, the Rainin Foundation is keen to explore the use of technology and devices to underpin some of this translational science as a means to improve patient care and complement existing practices in the community.

Because the Foundation is passionate about and committed to innovation, our strategy is to impact human health from a patient-focused perspective—supporting more translational science in tandem with basic research to generate new successes. In our first foray into this sort of accelerated science, we awarded a grant to G-Tech Medical, a Bay Area start-up company that seeks a new way of tracking gut motility in the context of IBD. Their pioneering work offers the high-risk, high-reward potential the Foundation eagerly supports.

“We will continue funding basic science and efforts to accelerate the advancement of discoveries into new clinical tools for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of IBD.”

Laura Wilson, PhD, Director of Health Strategy & Ventures

The beginning of an idea is particularly exciting to us because it’s where we can make the greatest impact.

Projects at the Forefront

While our long-term goal is to cure chronic disease, most immediately we want to help improve the ability to predict and prevent the development of IBD, as its prevalence is increasing at alarming rates. There are several areas of study central to these efforts.

The Rainin Foundation supports grantees who are studying the impact of standardized diets on IBD, looking for reliable data that links diet to the disease. In the near term, scientifically validated diets could help to facilitate remission as effectively as some medications. With scientific proof to inform clinicians about predictable outcomes of effective diets, patients will no longer have to experiment with dubious diets based on anecdotal evidence. They will be empowered with the knowledge and tools they need to affect their own healing.

Among our grantees who are conducting distinct studies on the microbiome, we are seeing progress—and their findings are building on one other. Scientists are looking into what these bacteria are doing and how they might increase or decrease the frequency and severity of flare-ups for people with IBD. Some see patients and have access to clinical samples that they can provide to researchers who are considering the same sorts of questions. By focusing on a common goal, scientists are harnessing the power of collaborative efforts, which we believe is critical to advancing the field.

In addition to these projects, we continue to support research on new therapeutics, immunity and inflammation, and the exploration of other risk factors in IBD. We continually assess our strategies to ensure that we are flexible, forward-thinking, and adaptable to the changing needs of the field. As has been our practice, we turn to the experts—our partners and grantees—to get insights and find out what’s needed to support the work. We listen and respond to be the best partner we can be.

Our annual Innovations Symposium provides researchers with a platform to collaborate and draw inspiration from each other. Photo credit: Stephanie Secrest

Forging Connections

As a leading funder of IBD research, the Rainin Foundation invests in bold ideas and partnerships that have the potential to accelerate scientific breakthroughs. In 2016, we partnered with the Philanthropy Advisory Service of the Milken Institute to learn how strategic investments can change the trajectory of IBD research. This collaboration resulted in A Giving Smarter Guide, which explores research barriers, funding gaps and possible solutions to address challenges.

We also joined forces with OpenBiome, a nonprofit stool bank dedicated to expanding safe access to Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT), to produce an overview of the state of research on this potential therapy for IBD. This report informed the design of a study we are funding at the University of California, San Francisco. In partnership with OpenBiome, researchers seek to understand how FMT can benefit patients with ulcerative colitis.

We anticipate that these investments and efforts will lead to improvements for predicting and preventing IBD.

We support novel, high-risk research and challenge investigators to collaborate and push boundaries.

Building a Community of Researchers

Collaboration is a cornerstone of our work. We actively look for ways to facilitate connections among researchers. We hosted our fifth annual Innovations Symposium in 2016 to bring our grantees together with others working within and outside of the IBD research field. Guest speakers—including leading scientists, clinicians and representatives from biotech companies around the world—gave thought-provoking presentations, which in turn led to critical conversations. Our grantees also presented new, unpublished data from their cutting-edge research. The Symposium’s format emphasized and promoted attendee engagement with abundant time for networking and small-group discussions. To encourage young scientists to pursue IBD research, we offered travel grants and encouraged our grantees to bring trainees to the Symposium. New collaborations and partnerships took shape at the event.

“The meeting spanned the translation spectrum, covering everything from basic science to clinical applications to improve IBD treatment. The networking opportunities have already led to potential future collaborations.”

Kevin Whelan, PhD, Kings College London, Symposium attendee

Our investments are deeply connected to the children, adults and families whose lives could be improved by our grantees’ research.

Embracing Innovation: Our Grant Programs

We support groundbreaking ways to explore the most cutting-edge areas of IBD research because we know that people’s lives are at stake.

“By nature, scientists are curious, always asking questions and wanting to explore new ideas. When a nontraditional funder is willing to entertain ‘high risk’ projects, the field is rife with people who want to be part of that.”

Laura Wilson, PhD, Director, Health Strategy & Ventures


Gwendalyn Randolph, PhD

Dr. Gwendalyn Randolph is a pioneering researcher whose instincts led to a novel technique and the ability to peer more deeply into the workings of Crohn’s disease. We invite you to learn about her breakthrough moment in this video.


Funds research projects that have the potential to push the boundaries to advance IBD research.

Milena Bogunovic, MD, PhD, Pennsylvania State University

Ken Cadwell, PhD, New York University

John Chang, MD, University of California, San Diego

Jean-Frédéric Colombel, MD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Christopher Contag, PhD, Stanford University

Jun Huh, PhD, University of Massachusetts

Nobuhiko Kamada, PhD, University of Michigan

Hyun Jung Kim, PhD, University of Texas at Austin

Eric Martens, PhD, University Of Michigan

Corinne Maurice, PhD, McGill University

Inga Peter, PhD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

View more information about these grants.


Provides additional support to Innovator Award grantees who have demonstrated significant progress toward their goals.

Michel Bagnat, PhD, Duke University

Gregory Barton, PhD, University of California, Berkeley

Marco Colonna, MD, Washington University

Mohamed Abou Donia, PhD, Princeton University

Gerard Eberl, PhD, Institut Pasteur

Katherine Fitzgerald, PhD, University of Massachusetts

Iliyan Iliev, PhD, Weill Cornell Medical College

Kate Jeffrey, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital Research Institute

Jeffrey Karp, PhD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Dan Littman, MD, PhD, New York University

Timothy Lu, MD, PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Richard Maizels, PhD, University of Glasgow

Daniel Mucida, PhD, The Rockefeller University

Gabriel Rabinovich, PhD, and Karina V. Mariño, PhD, Fundacion Institituto de Biologia y Medicina Experimental

David Suskind, MD, Seattle Children’s Hospital

Kevin Whelan, PhD, King’s College London

View more information about these grants.

SYNERGY AWARDS (announced January 2017)

Encourages investigators with diverse expertise to pool their knowledge and resources towards a goal they could not achieve independently.

Aida Habtezion, MD, Stanford University; Sidhartha R. Sinha, MD, Stanford University; and Justin Sonnenburg, PhD, Stanford University.

Gwendalyn Randolph, PhD, Washington University; Saurabh Mehandru, MD, Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai; and Daniel Mucida, PhD, Rockefeller University.

Iliyan D. Iliev, PhD, Weill Medical College of Cornell University; Inga Peter, PhD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; and Jean-Frédéric Colombel, MD, PhD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

View more information about these grants.


The Foundation continually looks for ways to advance and support our mission through investments. Invitation only. In 2016, we supported:

G-Tech Medical

Microbiome Health Research Institute

University of California, San Francisco

View more information about these grants.

Explore the Foundation’s website to learn more about our Health program.