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May 22, 2018

MDI Biological Lab establishes scientific innovation fund

Courtesy / MDI Biological Laboratory Kevin Strange, president of the MDI Biological Laboratory who will be stepping down as head of the lab in July, was instrumental in attracting the interest of a donor who made possible the establishment of the William Procter Scientific Innovation Fund.

The Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor has established the William Procter Scientific Innovation Fund, to provide up to $50,000 annually to full-time faculty members, students or research fellows to support high-risk/high-impact research, basic scientific research with potential for commercialization and education programs focused on translating scientific discoveries into commercial applications.

According to a news release from the lab, the fund is named in honor of Dr. William Procter (1873-1951), a businessman, entrepreneur and scientist. Procter’s seven-part “Biological Survey of the Mount Desert Region,” published between 1927 and 1946, has been an invaluable resource for biologists studying the fauna of the Mount Desert Island region.

The fund is expected to support research that may otherwise be perceived as conceptually risky by traditional funding sources, lab president Kevin Strange said in the release.

The fund was established by a member of Procter’s family in honor of his achievements in science and business. Strange and his wife and laboratory manager Rebecca Morrison attracted the interest of the donor by highlighting the parallels between Procter’s achievements and the institution’s current focus on translating scientific discoveries into therapies to treat major diseases and improve quality of life.

Procter was the grandson of William Procter, founder of Procter & Gamble, and an active board member until his death. He was also a co-owner of Procter and Borden, a Manhattan securities firm.

“But his real love was science, to which he devoted most of his life,” the release says. “In addition to the survey, which he launched at the MDI Biological Laboratory in the 1920s, he was an active supporter of many scientific causes and organizations.”

Early benefactor of MDIBL

Procter made significant contributions to the MDI Biological Laboratory, for which he served as trustee and president. Under the influence of early naturalists like Louis Agassiz, a Harvard professor who urged his students to “study nature, not books,” he established a research station at the laboratory in 1921. Though he would later relocate to a larger facility at his summer cottage, “Corfield,” in Bar Harbor, the buildings he constructed still remain.

Today, Procter’s collection is housed at the William Otis Sawtelle Collections and Research Center at the headquarters of Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, where it is used to study changes that have occurred in insect and marine life, Procter’s main areas of interest. Scott Swann, a lecturer in natural history at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, has called the survey “a brilliant data set that is stunning, complete, and meticulous.”

The lab’s work in regenerative medicine focuses on developing drugs that slow age-related degenerative diseases and activate the natural ability to heal. It has identified potential therapies designed for the treatment of heart disease, muscular dystrophy, nerve damage and more.

The establishment of the fund follows on the lab’s naming of a new president earlier this month. Hermann Haller – a faculty member at the lab since 2007 and a leader in kidney disease, hypertension and kidney and blood vessel regeneration – will take over from Strange, the institution's president of nine years.

Strange's last day is July 25, and Haller will start July 26.

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