Ever since 1983, when it was establisbed with a $300 million gift from the late Kentucky racehorse breeder Lucille P. Markey, the Markey trust has been sinking millions into basic biomedical research. At the same time the Miami-based endowment has been earning millions in interest on investments largely tied to oil properties. The net result: an enormous cash balance of close to $133 million—all of which must be given away over the next seven and one-half years, when, according to a condition set forth in Mrs. Markey’s will, the trust will go out of the funding business permanently.

As the organization reaches the halfway mark on its way to the 1997 spending deadline, there has been talk that it may change course in the way it distributes its remaining wealth. Until now, Markey has concentrated almost exclusively on two funding programs: the prestigious Markey Scholar Awards; and the doling out...

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