Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) hosted the 2021 Double Helix Medals dinner (DHMD) on November 17, 2021, raising a record $5 million to support biology research. After going virtual for the 2020 ceremony, guests of the sixteenth annual gala were excited to be back in person this year in New York City. Lesley Stahl, the American television journalist who emceed the dinner, said “there is still nothing like being together under the whale in the Hall of Ocean Life at the Museum of Natural History!” The event honored three people: baseball legend Reggie Jackson and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. cofounders Leonard Schleifer and George D. Yancopoulos. Mayor-elect Eric Adams took the stage to champion biological research and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education.
Jackson is a STEM education advocate. He says, “It’s early exposure to STEM that’s important. You need to get the kids when they’re young; that’s when the motivation begins.” Jackson has been providing educational opportunities to disadvantaged students for over 20 years through his Mr. October Foundation. Houston Astros owner Jim Crane introduced Jackson and announced a special gift of $300,000 to take the total amount raised at the DHMD to a historic $5 million.
At Regeneron, Schleifer and Yancopoulos are transforming human health with novel therapeutics, including their recent life-saving antibody treatment for COVID-19. Yancopoulos says, “I have a long, ongoing relationship with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. It is one of the most unique science environments in the world, bringing people together. I’ve met people like Bruce Stillman and so many others who are still friends and/or collaborators, who contributed to some of the efforts at Regeneron.”
Schleifer and Yancopoulos are dedicated to STEM education with initiatives such as the Regeneron DNA Learning Center at Sleepy Hollow, the Regeneron Science Talent Search, and the International Science and Engineering Fair. The two Regeneron cofounders understand the importance of training the next generation of leaders in scientific innovation. Schleifer says, “biotechnology offers the promise of really solving some of the most difficult problems that we face if we want our citizens to live not only longer, but healthier lives.”
The event was chaired by Ms. Jamie Nicholls and Mr. O. Francis Biondi, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Kelter, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Lindsay, Drs. Marilyn and James Simons, and Mr. and Mrs. Paul Taubman. Since the first DHMD in 2006 which honored Muhammad Ali, the event has raised over $50 million for CSHL’s biological research and education programs.