In the mid 1980s, Japanese Doctors Sachiko Kuno and Ryuji Ueno founded R-Tech Ueno Ltd. and went on to uncover the therapeutic properties of prostones in treating glaucoma. Since then, the doctors have developed medications to treat issues such as irritable bowel syndrome and chronic idiopathic constipation, and have more than 600 international patents still pending.
Tapping in to the American market, the biochemists moved from Japan to the Washington, DC area in 1996, where they created Sucampo Pharmaceuticals. Armed with resources such as the FDA, NIH, and the Patent Office, the doctors began to extend their entrepreneurial ventures in to other passions. “Science and business are our world,” Dr. Sachiko Kuno said in a recent interview, “we established the S&R Foundation in 2000 to support young, talented people in art, science and social entrepreneurship.”
Since 2001 the S&R Foundation has been giving annual prizes such as the Washington Award and the Ueno Award for musical and scientific achievement respectively. But it was not until 2011, with the purchase of the Evermay Estate and the Halcyon House, two of the most beautiful and historic estates in Georgetown, that the S&R Foundation and the doctors themselves were shot in to the limelight. “We did not intend to make ourselves very public people,” Dr. Kuno explained. But because of the rich history and public admiration of the houses, the doctors have taken it upon themselves to preserve the buildings and their history.
Kate Goodall, COO of the S&R Foundation, said the houses have been excellent places to serve the mission of the Foundation. “People want to come for the houses and often stay when they learn what it is the foundation is doing. The doctors have used the houses to magnify the impact of the Foundation dramatically.”
It was Dr. Ueno’s musical upbringing that led the doctors to seek out a way to skillfully combine the arts and sciences. To accomplish this goal, the houses serve different functions, fulfilling the various missions of the Foundation
Evermay—where the doctors themselves will eventually live full-time—is currently home to the Evermay Chamber and the Evermay Chamber Orchestra. The Chamber, made up of nine artists from five continents, performs for different seasons and concerts in the DC area. With the Evermay Chamber and Evermay Orchestra, the S&R Foundation has begun to connect with prominent artistic organizations in the DC area, including the Washington National Opera and the Washington Ballet.
Having co-chaired the 2014 Washington National Opera Ball at the Japanese Ambassador’s residence this past spring, Dr. Kuno is an avid supporter of the Washington National Opera and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Every year, the Opera Ball brings together a host of distinguished guests, particularly Washington’s Diplomatic community, to support the arts. The Ball presents a rare opportunity for the representatives of many nations to come together in the absence of politics. Dr. Kuno’s role in this type of musical diplomacy further lends itself to the mission of the S&R Foundation, encouraging artistic talent and interdisciplinary collaboration.
In addition, the Evermay Chamber’s partnership with the Washington Ballet—a passion of Dr. Ueno’s—continues to grow. Having been without live music for quite some time, the Washington Ballet is teaming up with the Chamber to perform Swan Lake in April 2015. According to Goodall, it is likely that the Chamber will extend this partnership beyond Swan Lake in the future.
With such tremendous success in fostering musical and artistic talent, the Foundation is now beginning to focus heavily on social entrepreneurship. The Halcyon house was home to the S&R Foundation’s think tank, the International Institute of Global Resilience (IIGR), until it was recently moved to its own headquarters in Bethesda. Born from the Fukushima disaster, the think tank works to better coordinate emergency management systems to utilize resources that are already at a nation’s disposal but may be misallocated. As IIGR continues to accrue accolades worldwide, Dr. Kuno hopes that the new Halcyon Incubator will achieve similar success in its mission to address today’s social issues.
With this new availability, Halcyon will now house the S&R Foundation’s new Incubator program, whose first class began in September. For the Incubator, the S&R Foundation has set three main goals: to support talented individuals, to move the needle on 21st century social challenges, and to help catalyze Washington, DC as the center for social enterprise start-ups. Why Washington, DC? Goodall argues “there are things about DC that are just so unique and essential for social entrepreneurs that maybe are a little bit unlike Silicon Valley or Boston. You have massive access to all three sectors, to domestic through international resources. You have willing and generous advisers from every field…the access you can find in the city really sets it apart for social ventures in particular.”
Having undergone dramatic but positive renovations for the Foundation’s Incubator, Halcyon will provide both a stimulating and relaxing environment for the Fellows, creating a conductive working space. Once at the Incubator, each Fellow is designated a mentor in his or her field, and has access to a general advisory panel to provide further assistance if needed. Fellows are also given an executive coach to help with personal tribulations through the development process, such as growing pains or insecurities. Depending on the needs of individual projects, Fellows are provided resources to supplement PR, legal, or business related training. Ben Reich, incoming Halcyon Fellow and half of a two-men partnership with Dan Gallagher, explained, “We’re both engineers. We’re confident we can build a great system [for our project], but we’ve never founded a business.” The Fellows “are all going to have different needs and challenges and strengths,” Goodall acknowledges, and the Foundation is working to accommodate each need so the Fellows get the most out of this program.
The word “Halcyon” itself, from the Greek Mythology, means calm, prosperous, and joyful. The placement of the Incubator in this house was deliberate, says Goodall, as “we often talk about these [projects] as our fledgling ventures and we talk about Halcyon as a nest.”
Although this year’s class has already been selected, applications for the next class opened in July. For future fellows, Dr. Kuno “would really like to see talented individuals with high aspirations and with great potential.” Goodall adds that the ideal Fellows are those “that really do shine, both in talent and motivation, and just need a little bit of extra support to really launch. Obviously we’re also looking for really bright and innovative ideas.”
Evermay and Halcyon have a tremendous impact on the Foundation’s projects and the people who work on them. Dr. Kuno explained, “Sharing time and space always give us some inspiration, as a scientist or as an artist…I am a believer that Evermay and the Halcyon house, these types of buildings, have some sort of power to give inspiration.”
Years of work have brought science, art, and business together in perfect harmony, supporting the innovative ideas of tomorrow by investing in people today.