About the Institute
To make a significant contribution to humanity through medical research by expanding our understanding of the secrets of life, and by improving life’s quality through innovative approaches to the causes, treatment and prevention of diseases.
The Stowers Institute for Medical Research was established in 1994 through the extraordinary generosity of the late James “Jim” E. Stowers Jr., the founder of American Century Investments, and his wife Virginia G. Stowers, who dedicated their personal fortune to improving human health through basic research.
Situated on the former campus of the Menorah Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, the 600,000-square-foot research facility was thoughtfully designed to provide state-of-the-art laboratory space, equipment and technical support—but above all—to encourage collaboration between scientists.
In the year 2000, three years after breaking ground, the Stowers Institute opened its laboratory doors to welcome the first generation of Stowers scientists. In 2009, the Institute added a 280,000-square-foot complex in South Kansas City to accommodate additional support functions and storage facilities.
Throughout the Institute’s history, from the earliest planning stages to the latest addition of new faculty members, an external Scientific Advisory Board, comprised of seven members of the National Academy of Sciences, has been providing independent advice and guidance on the scientific direction of the Institute.
Today, the Institute houses more than 20 independent research programs and several technology development programs. Of the nearly 550 Institute members, about 370 are scientific staff: principal investigators, technology center directors, postdoctoral research associates and fellows, pre-doctoral research associates, and technical support staff.
The research programs at the Stowers Institute focus on basic biomedical research in genetic model organisms as a way to understand how cells function and to decipher what goes wrong when they malfunction. Stowers investigators analyze how genes and proteins control virtually all biological processes; from cell division to cell differentiation; from processing smells to storing fat; from generating memories to regenerating missing body parts.
As strong believers in endowment-based scientific research, the Stowers family endowed the Institute with gifts totaling close to $2 billion. Their ultimate goal was to free scientists from the pressures of securing their own funding, allowing them to solely focus their talent and energy on scientific research.
In addition to thriving research programs and continued growth, the Institute launched a graduate training program in the fall of 2011.
“The best solutions to problems are reached through the extraordinary power of teamwork.”
- James E. Stowers, Jr.
Striving for nothing less than creating the most innovative and effective medical research institute in the world, Jim and Virginia Stowers wanted to create a unique research environment that would reflect their values: a commitment to excellence and teamwork, a long-term perspective, and an unwavering dedication to improving the lives of others.
Following Jim Stowers’ philosophy to “always preserve your capital”—an approach that served him well during his career in the financial world—the couple endowed the Institute generously to create the nation’s second largest medical research organization and to ensure its ongoing financial independence.
Today, the Stowers Institute’s financial strength allows scientists to focus on their research instead of writing grants. It also enables them to pursue questions requiring a longer-term investment than acceptable to most funding agencies. At the same time, the Stowers’ commitment to long-term performance convinced them of the importance of offering its investigators renewable terms, rather than the tenure that is typical of most academic institutions. To maintain the highest standards of research, the Stowers insisted on the involvement of an external Scientific Advisory Board of pre-eminent scientific leaders to confirm the quality of its appointments and renewals.
The successful application of computer technology not only gave Jim Stowers the necessary edge to become a successful investor, but also convinced him of the importance of providing scientists with access to cutting-edge technology. The Stowers Institute’s state-of-the-art laboratory space, investment in advanced equipment, and recruitment of technology experts reflect the Stowers’ commitment to technology and teamwork. Today, more than one-third of the Institute’s scientific operating budget is devoted to staffing, equipping and running its technology centers.
From the very beginning, Jim and Virginia Stowers envisioned that the Stowers Institute for Medical Research would give rise to new insights into the fundamental processes underlying health and disease. To translate these basic research findings into cures and treatments for the benefit of patients, they established BioMed Valley Discoveries, Inc., a unique translational research company located in Kansas City, Missouri, focused on moving discoveries from the laboratory to use in clinical applications.