Posted: March 18, 2019

A better world through philanthropy and medical research

Making the world a better place is a life goal shared by most. And we can all contribute in ways large and small. Chemical engineering alumnus Tom Claugus and partner Beatriz Illescas Putzeys are going big.

An Ohio native, Tom earned his BS in Chemical Engineering from Ohio State and subsequently obtained his MBA from Harvard Business School. He began his professional life with global specialty chemicals company Rohm and Haas. After 17 years, Tom left the company to establish his own hedge fund, which has consistently been one of the industry’s best performers. Throughout his career, he has constantly sought to support and give back to those most in need, working with organizations and people all over the globe.

In 2012 Tom met Beatriz, who was at that time representing her country as the Consul General of Guatemala in Atlanta. Her years of experience in the field of higher education in Guatemala as well as her deep understanding of the needs of the immigrant population made her an ideal partner for Tom’s philanthropic projects.

After months of discussing possible ways to do so, Tom decided to create a private family-run foundation and selected Beatriz as its president. They launched Foundation for a Better World in 2013.

Based in Atlanta, the Foundation for a Better World supports education at all levels, health and medical research, and humanitarian relief initiatives.  

Earlier this year, the foundation awarded a $500,000 grant to Ohio State’s Center for Electron Microscopy and Analysis (CEMAS) to acquire technology that will accelerate life science research.

“One of our main goals is advancing medical research,” said Beatriz. “Through our grant to CEMAS, we will be supporting this goal. And Ohio State is dear to both of us.”

CEMAS recently added cryo-electron microscopy capabilities to their world-class facility on west campus. By overcoming challenges associated with traditional electron microscopy, x-ray diffraction and nuclear magnetic resonance, cryo-EM enables scientists to see how biomolecules move and interact as they perform their functions. The foundation grant enables the addition of micro-electron diffraction (micro-ED) technology, which expands cryo-EM’s reach to very small biomolecules.

CEMAS researchers Hendrik Colijn (front) and Binbing Deng analyze samples with the recently installed cryo-EM equipment“Single particle analysis methods utilized in cryo-EM have to date focused on larger molecules,” said CEMAS Director David McComb. “However, there are many important biological molecules that are considerably smaller. The micro-ED method has been shown to enable the structure of these macromolecules to be studied and determined.”

“This is likely to have a direct impact on drug development in many fields, including those related to Alzheimer’s and other diseases of the central nervous system.”

The funding also supports a post-doctoral researcher to focus on implementing micro-ED and to interact with research faculty throughout the university.

The foundation’s other medical research initiatives include partnerships with the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation and the International Progressive MS Alliance to support world-class research to find cures for both diseases.

Posted: February 2019

Posted: December 2018