The late Serena S. Merck founded The John Merck Fund, a New York charitable trust named for her son, in 1970. For the first sixteen years, The Fund worked exclusively to support research into children’s developmental disabilities. Beginning in 1986, it added programs in other fields that also were of concern to Mrs. Merck and her late husband, George W. Merck. Currently, The Fund has four program areas: Developmental Disabilities, Clean Energy, Environmental Health and Regional Food Systems.
In October 2011, The John Merck Fund announced it will spend all of its assets over ten years to spur progress in clean energy, environmental health, development of a New England regional food system, and treatment of developmental disabilities. The Boston-based foundation, now in its third generation of family leadership, currently holds approximately $75 million in assets. Under a plan approved by its board of trustees, The John Merck Fund began the spendout in January 2012, will award its last grants in 2021 and will close its doors in 2022. Allowing for investment income earned during the ten-year period, the foundation estimates that total grantmaking could approach $100 million.