The John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation is one of the organisations in Greece working towards improving the lives of the country’s hard-hit communities. As the nation puts the financial crisis behind it, the Latsis family, including businessman Spiro Latsis, continues the public service efforts so important to John S. Latsis, for whom the foundation is named.
The foundation’s supervisory board is headed by Latsis family members: Henrietta Latsis (president), Spiro Latsis, Marianna Latsis and Margarita Latsis. Together, the team has supported social welfare, scientific discovery, education and cultural initiatives both in Greece and around the world. The foundation undertakes programmes of its own as well as supports the programmes of others. Programmes funded in part by the foundation are considered partners, and the foundation seeks to provide support beyond just financial assistance.
In 2008, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation began to facilitate an annual open call for submission of proposals for scientific research projects. By providing funding to such endeavours, the foundation hopes to advance science research in Greece and open the doors for collaborations between local scientific groups and foreign universities.
In the seven years since the annual open call started, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation has funded an average of 17 projects every year. Successful project proposals have been balanced between the areas of Social Sciences and Humanities, Life Sciences as well as Physical and Engineering Sciences.
The year 2014 saw 19 projects receive funding, with the project selection committee choosing innovative ideas from each of the aforementioned categories. One project that caught the eye of the foundation’s members pertained to the use of nanogels in regenerative medicine. An overview of the project is provided below.
Nanogels in regenerative medicine
Proposed by a team of three researchers from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the focus of this particular project was to develop new therapies using nanogels that could advance tissue engineering. Nanogels are soft matter microscopic particles whose natural properties allow them to change shape and size depending on the environment in which they are placed. Nanogels can be used to mimic the biomechanical qualities of natural cartilage, and can thus be applied in medical situations where patients suffer from cartilage degeneration.
The project submission process
Projects are submitted to the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation through an online submission system that requires research teams to have an appointed coordinator who will acquire a personal account. Through the personal account, the team can submit a proposal during the submission period specified by the foundation.
Teams have the option of submitting at once or incrementally until the expiration of the submissions deadline. Relevant proposal information, such as contact information and the CV’s of the scientific group’s members, title of the project and details pertaining to the research undertaken (significance, schedule, expected end results, project budget and more) are included in the proposal.
Evaluation of the proposals is undertaken by a scientific committee that works in tandem with independent evaluators in related fields. The results of the evaluation are posted on the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, with project team coordinators receiving emails of the results as well. Research teams that are selected are required to sign contracts with the foundation, agreements that specify the terms of financing and implementation of the project.
Maximum funding for scientific research is 12,000 euros, which is expected to cover all expenses pertaining to the implementation of the proposed project. Independent teams are expected to manage their finances, while teams that are affiliated with research institutions and universities access the funds via special accounts set up by the parent institution.
Aiding advancements in scientific research
Private funders have gained the interest of researchers in recent years, largely because research groups can approach funders with issues that may not traditionally be considered significant enough to society to gain consideration. Often, private funding will be offered in regard to the size of the project; flexibility that might not be available when considering public funding. Research groups have the flexibility when creating proposals, and the bureaucracy that is sometimes evident in public funding procedures is typically eliminated with private backers.
Since the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation decided to support scientific groups with funds to facilitate their research, more than one hundreds projects have found the lifeline they needed to make a contribution to the body of scientific knowledge.
In an era where the Greek government is working steadfastly towards the re-emergence of the economy, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation is doing its part to help ensure that scientific research in the country does not stagnate. The foundation’s continued funding of projects allows researchers the ability to continue finding answers to some of science’s great mysteries.