Carlos Slim announced a USD65 million pledge in January to fund a major research project in genomic medicine. The money will create the Slim Initiative for Genomic Medicine to study cancer, kidney disease and Type 2 diabetes in Latin American populations. The initiative involves a partnership with Mexican health officials and the Broad Institute, which was founded by Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Eli and Edythe Broad in 2003 to use DNA sequencing to pursue medical advances. It will also facilitate the training of Mexican experts by the National Institute of Genomic Medicine of the Mexican Secretariat of Health, the main recipient of the project’s findings.
While rich donors are often viewed with a degree of ambivalence, Slim seems to attract a greater degree of it than most. His scepticism about the uses of charity is much quoted (‘Only by creating jobs do you end poverty, charity is not enough’), but would very likely be shared by most of those who work in development and philanthropy. As to his motives, while awarding him the President’s Medal at the George Washington University last June, GWU President Stephen Knapp described him rather fulsomely as ‘an ideal human being: ethical, wilful and spiritual’. On the other hand, critics believe he is as much motivated by self-interest as by regard for his less well-off fellows, pointing for instance to his investment in cleaning up the old colonial centre of Mexico City, which many see as being tied to his large real estate holdings in the area. Alexis Rozvar, a Mexican attorney in New York, recently remarked in Poder 360 magazine: ‘Many people may remember him simply as a savvy investor, who competed forcefully and took advantage of opportunities in a non-leveled playing field.’