Searle Scholars Program Names Dr. Milan Mrksich As Its New Scientific Director

CHICAGO—Kinship Foundation is pleased to announce that Dr. Milan Mrksich will be the new Scientific Director of the Searle Scholars Program, effective July 1.  Mrksich succeeds Dr. Douglas Fambrough who is retiring from the position after 24 years.

Mrksich will carry on the vital work of the Program that helps to advance innovative scientific research. Since the Program’s establishment in 1980, 617 scientists have been name Searle Scholars and the Program has given out more than $133 million in awards. Searle Scholars have gone on to receive some of the nation’s most distinguished honors including induction into the National Academy of Sciences, MacArthur “genius grants” and even a Nobel prize.

“We are really excited to have Dr. Mrksich lead the next chapter of the Searle Scholars Program. He is forward-thinking and strategic with a clear understanding of what the Program aims to do for the advancement of science,” said Paul Thomson, Kinship Foundation Board Member. “We are confident that under his leadership the Program will continue to support some of the world’s brightest scientists and their important research, helping shape the future of life sciences,” Thomson continued.

For more than two decades, Fambrough helmed the program through tremendous growth and impact. “I am honored to have been able to lead this Program that gives support to exceptional young scientists at the outset of their research careers. Over these years a large number of eminent scientists have served on our Advisory Board that selects new Searle Scholars. Working with these advisors has been a great pleasure, and their wisdom is reflected in the huge impact their chosen Scholars have had in the fields of chemistry and the biomedical sciences. I am pleased to hand over leadership to Dr. Milan Mrksich—I know the Program is in great hands,” said Fambrough. 

While serving as Director, Mrksich will remain active in his own research and continue as the Henry Wade Rogers Professor at Northwestern University, with appointments in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, and Cell and Molecular Biology. Mrksich is a respected leader in the science and engineering of materials that contact biological environments. His laboratory has pioneered several technologies, including strategies to integrate living cells with microelectronic devices, methods to enable high throughput assays for drug discovery, and model systems for understanding the interactions of cells with their tissue environments. Mrksich is a founder of SAMDI Tech, a company that has commercialized his high throughput assays for discovering drug leads.

“The Searle Scholars Program has an outstanding record in identifying and providing early support to the most innovative biomedical scientists and chemists, and I look forward to working with our Advisory Board to advance the program's impact in the careers of our most promising young scientists,” said Mrksich.

Mrksich has served on a dozen Scientific Advisory Boards of life sciences startup companies.  He is a former Searle Scholar (1996) and was a former chair of the Searle Scholars Scientific Advisory Board. His many honors include: Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award in 1996; Editorial Board, Langmuir in 1997; Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award in 2000; Alfred P. Sloan Fellow in 2000; TR100 Young Innovator in 2002; ACS Cope Scholar Award in 2003 and election as a fellow to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2005. Mrksich attended the University of Illinois, earning a B.S. degree in Chemistry in 1989 and received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from California Institute of Technology in 1994.

About the Searle Scholars Program

The Searle Scholars Program supports high risk, high reward research across a broad range of scientific disciplines. Grants are $300,000 for a three-year term with $100,000 payable each year of the grant. Searle Scholars Program is funded through grants from the family trusts to The Chicago Community Trust and administered by Kinship Foundation, the private operating foundation that manages the institutional philanthropy of the Searle Family. For more information about the Searle Scholars Program visit