The Gatsby Charitable Foundation

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The Gatsby Charitable Foundation (Charity no. 251988) is an endowed grant-making trust, where trustees can give money to any charitable cause. It was founded in 1967 by David Sainsbury.[1] It has strong links with the biotech industry and according to the foundations website it works in many areas including: plant science, neuroscience, education, Africa, public policy and the arts.[1] In July 1998 the trust provided the funds for the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit to be created at University College London (UCL).[2] The Gatsby Foundation also runs the Gatsby Plant Science summer school; an 'intensive week of talks from leading scientists, constructive careers sessions, eye-opening practicals and thought-provoking discussions with researchers and peers turns some of the UK’s brightest bioscience undergraduates on to a future in plant science'.[3]


Through his Gatsby Charitable Foundation Lord Sainsbury has put millions into the study of plant genetics. Gatsby gives approximately £2 million a year to the Sainsbury Laboratory of the John Innes Centre, which does research into GM crops. [4] Lord Sainsbury helped found the Laboratory in 1987 and his Gatsby Foundation remains its principal source of funding, although it also receives over £800,000 a year from the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC) , for which Sainsbury is responsible in his ministerial role.[5] Its grant has increased several fold during Sainsbury's time as minister.

Like his biotech investments, his Gatsby contributions have been administered through a blind trust run by his solicitor Judith Portrait since Sainsbury became UK Science Minister. Portrait is also a Gatsby trustee. [6] Although he does not attend Gatsby meetings or make decisions, Sainsbury retains the power to appoint and dismiss its trustees.

Whilst Science Minister in 2000 Lord Sainsbury drew some criticism after stating he was in favour of therapeutic cloning (the cloning of human embryos which could allow scientists to create "spare parts" for the body). In an interview with The Telegraph he said "The important benefits which can come from this research outweigh any other considerations one might have - that would be my own personal ethical judgment".[7]

Political Donations

Lord Sainsbury has a long record of providing donations to political parties. In the 1980s, before he was Lord Sainsbury, he provided significant funding to the Social Democrats. Once Labour moved more towards the centre of the political spectrum, he began to provide financial help to the party. It is believed that in total he donated up to £16 million to the Labour Party since 1994, when Tony Blair became leader.[8][9] He was given his peerage in 1997 and became Government Minister for Science in 1998. [9]


List of key staff working at the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. Correct as of 8 July 2016.[10]


Trustee Board

Senior Advisors

Senior Staff



The Gatsby Charitable Foundation was a donor to the Science Media Centre between 2009 and 2014.[11]


The Peak, 5 Wilton Road, London, SW1V 1AP
Tel: +44 (0)20 7410 0330 / Fax:+44 (0)20 7410 0332

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 'About Gatsby', The Gatsby Charitable Foundation website, accessed 8 July 2016.
  2. The Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit, Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit - UCL, accessed 8 July 2016.
  3. 'Gatsby Plant Science summer school', Gatsby Charitable Foundation website, accessed 8 July 2016.
  4. 'Labour's Business Backers: Are They Ethical?', Friends of the Earth, accessed 8 July 2016.
  5. 'Lord Sainsbury Quits as Minister', BBC, accessed 8 July 2016.
  6. 'Report of the Directors', J Sainsbury plc. Retrieved via the Internet Archive of 26 February 2009 on 8 July 2016.
  7. Rachel Sylvester, 'Sainsbury's own brand - science and some Gatsby', 29 July 2000, accessed 8 July 2016.
  8. Profile: Lord Sainsbury, BBC, 8 September 1999, accessed 8 July 2016.
  9. 9.0 9.1 BBC, 'Lord Sainsbury Quits as Minister', BBC, 10 November 2006, accessed 8 July 2016.
  10. Key People, The Gatsby Charitable Foundation website, accessed 8 July 2016.
  11. Data from Internet Archive holdings of the Science Media Centre website, 2002-2014