DuJour Navigation

Finding a Cure for the Cause

The venture capitalists at the center of the coronavirus fight

The battle to halt the COVID-19 pandemic will, of course, involve quite a bit of brain power and likely even more cash. One team looking for the answers is Scientists to Stop COVID-19, which the Wall Street Journal reported in an April story is described as “a lockdown-era Manhattan Project, a nod to the World War II group of scientists who helped develop the atomic bomb.”

Lab Work: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Scientists to Stop COVID-19 comprises a group of billionaires, industry leaders and scientists working together as a kind of “ad hoc review board for the flood of research on the coronavirus,” reported the Wall Street Journal. Together, they have been sifting through various nontraditional treatments from around the world to bring the best plans and recommendations to the current political administration. As of late April, they had assembled a confidential report.

Jim Pallotta: Jim Davis/The Boston Globe

Scientists to Stop COVID-19 is overseen by Tom Cahill, a young Duke-educated physician-turned-venture capitalist based in the Boston area. In March, Cahill organized a conference call to discuss how to assist with the fight to stop the coronavirus. What he imagined as a small group of friends and investors mushroomed into hundreds of people interested in participating. Among them: National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver; Steve Pagliuca of Bain Capital; PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel; financier-turned-philanthropist Michael Milken; and Brian Sheth, the Austin-based co-founder and president of Vista Equity Partners.

Peter Thiel: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

It was Sheth—a Democratic philanthropist with an expertise in technology who was also an investor in Cahill’s fund, Newpath Partners—who closed the gap between the group and the Trump White House. Sheth introduced Cahill to Thomas Hicks Jr., who lives in Dallas, is a co-chairman of the Republican National Commit­tee, and “hunts birds with Donald Trump,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Brian Sheth: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Forbes has reported that Sheth’s net worth is $2.2 billion, making him one of the richest people in the Austin area.
In recent years, Sheth and his wife, Adria, donated $3 million through their Sheth Sangreal Foundation to help build a new campus for the local Boys and Girls Club, featuring various sports fields, a recording studio, art and dance studios and a learning center for coding. Last year, they pledged to donate $1 million per year for the next decade to fund campus operations.

Michael Milken: Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Over the years, the 73-year-old Milken, who founded the Milken Institute to promote social good in 1991, has spoken out about how important philanthropy and fundraising are to accelerating scientific change. This is particularly true when it comes to COVID-19 research and the efforts of the Scientists to Stop COVID-19. Risk-takers must be supported, Milken told the Wall Street Journal in another interview in early May, to “invest in where the world is going, not where it is.”

Stephen Pagliuca: Scott Eells/Bloomberg