By Sarah McBride
SAN FRANCISCO, June 4 (Reuters) - Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is leading a $35 million investment in ResearchGate, a Berlin-based network for scientists that ties into his interest in fighting disease.
ResearchGate allows researchers around the world to collaborate more easily. They might put out a call to colleagues to find, say, free samples of diseased tissue to analyze, or a partner to work with on a project.
A recent ResearchGate-launched collaboration between researchers in Europe and Nigeria resulted in the discovery of a deadly pathogen that had jumped from plants to humans, said ResearchGate Chief Executive Ijad Madisch in a phone interview.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation works to eradicate the world's most deadly diseases and poverty. Founded by Gates and his wife in 2000, its endowment totals $36.4 billion.
A spokesman for the Gates family said the investment in ResearchGate was a private investment that did not come from the foundation. He declined to comment further.
The collaboration between Gates and ResearchGate developed after one of Madisch's existing backers, Matt Cohler of Benchmark Capital, introduced Madisch to one of Gates's advisers, Madisch said. Earlier this year, Madisch flew to France to talk with Gates about his start-up.
"He understands things extremely fast," Madisch said, adding that meeting Gates was a longtime goal because of the Microsoft founder's philanthropy. "It was the coolest meeting I had in the last year."
Gates is leading the investment with Tenaya Capital, a late-stage investment firm based in Woodside, Calif. Existing investors, Benchmark and Founders Fund, participated.
Madisch, a Harvard-trained Ph.D, co-founded ResearchGate in 2008. It now has 2.8 million members. Its most popular fields are biology, medicine and computer science, and its top four countries by membership are the U.S., India, the U.K., and Germany, a spokesman said.
Many German start-ups have become known for successfully replicating business models developed elsewhere, chiefly in the U.S., rather than coming up with their own ideas. Madisch hopes ResearchGate will help change that reputation.
When asked if he would ever consider taking an investment from the Samwer brothers, the German investors known for funding companies that excel at German replications of U.S. start-ups, Madisch said he would not.
"Definitely not," he said.
Also on HuffPost:
Hollywood director George Lucas is passionate about education. He has worked to foster positive growth in the education sector through, <a href="http://www.edutopia.org/" target="_hplink">Edutopia</a>, the George Lucas Education Foundation. Lucas plans to donate the majority of his fortune to this end.
Paul G. Allen
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has supported his namesake, the <a href="http://www.pgafoundations.com/" target="_hplink">Paul G. Allen Family Foundation</a>, for more than 20 years, as well as helped advance nonprofit scientific research through the Allen Institute for Brain Science. Allen has already given hundreds of millions of dollars to charity through his foundation, and has expressed his commitment to give the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/15/paul-allens-charity-promi_n_648142.html" target="_hplink">majority of his fortune</a> after his death.
The Rockefeller family has historically been involved in philanthropic efforts supporting University of Chicago, <a href="http://www.rockefeller.edu/" target="_hplink">The Rockefeller University</a>, the Museum of Modern Art, and the <a href="http://www.rbf.org/" target="_hplink">Rockefeller Brothers Fund</a>. David Rockfeller, the current heir, has pledged the majority of his wealth to charity.
Mayor of New York City Michael R. Bloomberg plans to give away the majority of his wealth during his lifetime, explaining that it is a better way to ensure a <a href="http://givingpledge.org/#michael+r.+_bloomberg" target="_hplink">better future for his children</a> than leaving them to inherit his fortune. According to Bloomberg, his <a href="http://www.mikebloomberg.com/index.cfm?objectid=B96D19BD-C29C-7CA2-F72C5EDC3BEDFA6A" target="_hplink">foundation</a> is currently working to find ways to prevent early deaths caused by tobacco use and traffic accidents.
Barron Hilton (left) plans to immediately pledge over $1 billion to the <a href="http://www.hiltonfoundation.org/" target="_hplink">Conrad N. Hilton Foundation</a>, which provides funds for nonprofits addressing a variety of issues, including homelessness, access to clean water and disaster relief. Hilton also plans to follow an example set for him by his father, donating the remaining 97 percent of his wealth in the future.
Jon and Karen Huntsman
After losing his mother to cancer, businessman Jon Huntsman felt called to found the <a href="http://www.hci.utah.edu/" target="_hplink">Huntsman Cancer Institute</a> and use his fortune to find a cure for cancer. Huntsman plans to leave his entire estate to his foundation and other cancer-related charities.
In 1998, media mogul Ted Turner donated $1 billion to start the <a href="http://www.unfoundation.org/about-unf/" target="_hplink">United Nations Foundation</a>. Turner plans to continue giving, saying that his fortune should be almost completely distributed to charity at the time of his death.
In 1985, businessman Alfred Mann founded the <a href="http://www.aemf.org/" target="_hplink">Alfred Mann Foundation</a> to fund scientific research in the field of medicine. Mann has joined the ranks of the 'Giving Pledge,' planning to commit 90 percent of his estate to his foundation and other causes.
Eli and Edythe Broad
Billionaire businessman and real estate mogul Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe, have pledged to give away 75 percent of their fortune within their lifetimes. The <a href="http://www.broadfoundation.org/" target="_hplink">Broad Foundation</a> supports arts organizations, funds advancements in medical science and advocates for education reform.