George Mason University


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Fast Grants program is one of many getting a financial boost from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott

August 5, 2020   /   by John Hollis

Tyler Cowen ia a professor of economics within Mason’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the faculty director of the Mercatus Center. Photo provided.

MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has announced a substantial gift to the George Mason University-based Fast Grants program designed to expedite critical research in the fight against COVID-19. 

The philanthropic effort, which is a part of the Emergent Ventures program for innovators based within Mason’s Mercatus Center, was among the 116 nonprofit organizations Scott supported. Her gift of an undisclosed figure had remained anonymous until Scott revealed the news in her own blog on July 28. 

“I view COVID-19 as one of the major events of our lives, and everyday lives, jobs, and political order are at stake,” said Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics within Mason’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the faculty director of the Mercatus Center. “The more quickly we can help researchers in the fight against COVID-19, the better off the whole world will be. 

“I am delighted that MacKenzie Scott has decided to support our program.” 

Scott wrote on her blog that each organization she is supporting is empowered by leaders well-positioned to accelerate progress. 

“Every one of them is tackling complex challenges that will require sustained effort over many years, while simultaneously addressing consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she wrote. “And every one of them would benefit from more allies looking to share wealth of all types and sizes, including money, volunteer time, supplies, advocacy, publicity, networks and relationships, collaboration, encouragement and trust.” 

Cowen, who founded the Emergent Ventures program, hoped to inspire immediate breakthroughs in the fight against the virus when he announced the start of the Fast Grants in March. Word got out and donors soon began coming forward to aid in the efforts, including Telsa’s Elon Musk and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman among others. 

Launched with a $1 million grant from the Thiel Foundation, Emergent Ventures Fast Grants range between $10,000 and $500,000, with decisions about who receives them typically taking less than 14 days. The money is quickly dispersed to recipients. 

To date, the Fast Grants program has doled out more than $22 million in more than 130 grants, including several for potential vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.