The MacArthur Foundation announced yesterday the list of its 2006 fellows, who are sometimes referred to as the recipients of "genius" grants. As has been the trend in recent years, a few entrepreneurial types made the grade. Fellows receive $500,000 with no strings attached, paid in installments over five years.
James Fruchterman of the Benetech Initiative in Palo Alto, California, was cited for his work applying technology to social needs. The company describes its unique business model here and posts its audited financials here. EBay founders Pierre Omidyar and Jeff Skoll are key backers of Benetech. Among other projects, the company maintains Bookshare.org, and online library for the disabled.
Victoria Hale, the founder of the not-for-profit One World Health, which is based in San Francisco, is another interesting social entrepreneur on the MacArthur list. Her company works to develop affordable drugs to cure or treat diseases that primarily afflict people in the developing world. Her group "recently received approval for and brought to market its first drug, paromomycin, a low-cost antibiotic cure for visceral leishmaniasis, which afflicts approximately 1.5 million people worldwide, primarily in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sudan," the MacArthur Foundation's website reports. Previously, Hale co-founded Axiom BioMedical.
Edith Widder of Ft. Pierce, Florida, is the co-founder and director of the Ocean Research and Conservation Association, which is at the fore of marine biology. To further her research on bioluminescence, Widder has designed and invented underwater vehicles, sensors and other equipment.
Finally, John Zorn, the founder and president of the Tzadik Record Company in New York City, was awarded a grant. Zorn, who is also an accomplished composer and saxophonist, founded the label to promote and produce the work of his fellow avant garde musicians. He also owns a performance space called the Stone in Alphabet City. Previously, he has served as the artistic director at a number of other New York clubs including the the Knitting Factory, which was ranked number 90 on the 1999 Inc. 500 list.
Congratulations to all of the grant winners. To view a complete list of them, click here.