$10 million gift will make Petrie-Flom Center the largest of its kind in legal education

Post Date: Novemeber 29, 2005

The nation’s oldest law school is expanding into cutting-edge legal territory with today’s launch of the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics. The new Harvard Law School program is the result of extensive academic planning and a $10 million gift from the Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation and HLS graduate Joseph H. Flom.

A core group of Harvard faculty members, and a substantial fellows program, will allow the Center to tackle a range of complex issues brought on by advances in genetics, technology, and biotechnology—subjects that push the boundaries of existing thinking on what defines human life to what constitutes an ethically tenable area of medical research. The Center will also examine health care policy, including challenges related to access, cost and quality of care.

“Although health care consumes 15 percent of U.S. GDP, and probably an even greater share of legal practice given its regulatory nature, it probably occupies less than a 1 percent mind share in our top law schools,” said Einer Elhauge, faculty director of the Petrie-Flom Center, and the Carroll and Milton Petrie Professor of Law. “This Center aims to change that. With its emphasis on interdisciplinary work in health law policy, bioethics and biotechnology, and an extensive fellowship program to develop new health law scholars, I have no doubt that the Petrie-Flom Center will become the most intellectually influential center in its field.”

In addition to hosting research fellows and serving as an incubator for new ideas, the Petrie-Flom Center will undertake major research studies and hold conferences and symposia related to its mission.

“I believe that there are, and will be, increasing unexplored areas as a result of the breakneck pace of developments in the biotechnology area as well as related fields,” said Flom. “It is the hope of the Petrie Foundation and myself that this Center will be a major source of thinking and dealing with these developments.”

The Petrie-Flom Center takes its place alongside approximately 20 other research and policy programs at Harvard Law School, including the Program on Negotiation, the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, the Program on Corporate Governance, the Program on the Legal Profession, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and others.

“Given all the legal issues associated with health policy, biotechnology and bioethics, Harvard Law School has an obligation to put significant resources and brain power into this new center,” said Dean Elena Kagan. “We owe it to today’s students—whom we must prepare for a modern world of legal practice—and we owe it to our communities to make sure this new venture succeeds. It is my hope that the ideas generated by the Petrie-Flom Center will establish an important intellectual agenda and, ultimately, improve people’s lives.”

Although it will be based at the Law School, the Petrie-Flom Center will draw upon work done at many of Harvard’s other schools, including the Medical School, the School of Public Health and the Kennedy School of Government. In addition to Elhauge and several other Law School professors, Michael Sandel, a professor in Harvard’s Government Department, will also maintain an affiliation with the Center.

“This generous gift enables Harvard to study critical issues at the intersection of law, ethics and science,” said Harvard President Lawrence Summers. “It is illustrative of the multidisciplinary challenges facing our world today, and the programs we can develop in response.”

The $10 million dollar gift to establish the Petrie-Flom Center was spearheaded by Joseph Flom, a 1948 Harvard Law graduate and a partner with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP in New York. Widely recognized as one of the leading attorneys practicing in the merger and acquisition arena, Flom is credited with pioneering many of the strategies used today by bidders, targets and investment bankers. He is a member of Harvard Law School’s Dean’s Advisory Board and on the Executive Committee of Setting the Standard: The Harvard Law School Campaign.