May 31, 2022

$10 million gift from Brock family to establish Brock Family Center for Applied Innovation

From left, Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, Orrin Ingram, Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, Mary Brock, John Brock III, John Brock IV, Major Brock, Morgan Brock, Adam Dixon, Rebecca Brock Dixon.
From left, Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, Orrin Ingram, Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, Mary Brock, John Brock III, John Brock IV, Major Brock, Morgan Brock, Adam Dixon, Rebecca Brock Dixon.

A $10 million gift from the Brock family, including John F. Brock III, his wife, Mary, and their three adult children — Rebecca Brock Dixon, John F. Brock IV and Major Brock — will establish the Brock Family Center for Applied Innovation at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The gift will accelerate translation of discoveries and know-how to the public domain through commercialization and industry partnerships.

John Brock III is the retired CEO of Coca-Cola European Partners PLC, formerly Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc., the largest marketer, distributor and producer of Coca-Cola products globally. Mary is a philanthropist and active community leader. Rebecca, John IV and Major currently serve on the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) Board of Overseers.

“This gift establishes a center that will provide a nimble glide path for Vanderbilt faculty to commercialize ongoing innovation in biomedical and health sciences,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, VICC director, Benjamin F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology, Chief Scientific and Strategy Officer for VUMC and holder of the Brock Family Directorship in Career Development.

“We have a remarkable discovery engine and platform, and a substantial pipeline for patents and intellectual property licensing with the Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization at Vanderbilt University,” Pietenpol said. “However, we haven’t had robust capacity to assist our investigators who want to take technologies and know-how to create startup companies as commercial endpoints. The Brock Family Center for Applied Innovation will provide critical shared resources to launch companies and develop key industry and venture collaborations.

“There’s also an external focus. The Brock Family Center will welcome pitches from biotech and health tech startup companies interested in partnering with VUMC to further develop and validate their products in a real-world laboratory within a leading health care system,” said Pietenpol.

“The Brock Family Center for Applied Innovation is critical to our mission as a leading health care system, allowing us to accelerate translation of discoveries and new technologies to the public,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and CEO of VUMC and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “We are deeply grateful to the Brock family for their generosity and vision in helping us achieve this goal.”

Also, over the coming years, the Brock family’s generosity will be recognized by launching the Brock Family Annual Innovator Award to celebrate top innovators.

The Brock family has supported VICC and VUMC for many years through philanthropy and advocacy. Their many gifts have supported fellowships, cancer research, mentorship and career development for scientists. The family has a special interest in cancer research: John Brock III’s mother, Anise McDaniel Brock, died of lung and colon cancer in 2006.

“Their gifts are extraordinary, and we can’t thank the Brock family enough for their generosity and vision,” Pietenpol said. “The Brock family members have committed to supporting our entire mission, from research, to training the next generation, to providing the highest level of health care. The common theme is investing in people who are passionate about VUMC’s vision. With the Brock Center, we will amplify Vanderbilt’s impact and deliver on our belief that biotech and health tech startups are key to catalyzing life-changing innovation.”

The Brock family has a close relationship with Pietenpol and has been impressed, specifically, with her leadership of VICC and the leadership of VUMC. Pietenpol uses the Brock Family Directorship to mentor and develop the careers of the next generation of scientific experts and leaders.

“We have found through our experiences that leadership is the key to everything,” Mary said. “All that we’ve done with Vanderbilt-Ingram thus far has been successful, we believe, due to its outstanding leadership. We have confidence in Jennifer to find the right people who can make things happen! John and I, along with our three children, are very results-oriented, and that’s why we’re attracted to the idea of a Center for Applied Innovation. Although no one can predict exactly when there will be measurable results, there will be finite ways to determine success, and that excites us,” she said.

“What we’re doing now is a continuation of the level of support we’ve had of the leadership team and the research they’re doing,” John Brock III said. “We think remarkable discoveries will come out of the Brock Family Center for Applied Innovation, which we are so happy to fund. But just as importantly, those discoveries will be turned into real-world solutions which will be earth-shattering in terms of what they do for the world, will have an amazing impact on society, and they’ll also be economically attractive. We’re thrilled to be part of it,” he said.