The family’s philanthropic work was initially expressed through the Serono Foundation, which was founded in the 1970s to encourage global excellence in medical education. The Bertarelli Foundation, which was formed some 20 years later, initially continued the Serono Foundation’s focus on healthcare projects, particularly the promotion of research and discussion among clinicians and ethicists of issues concerning reproductive health and the treatment of infertility. Its goal was to achieve a better understanding of sterility and, indeed, an acknowledgement of the fact that sterility should be treated as a true disease.
In 2008, the Foundation expanded the areas in which it operated, reflecting the personal and collective interests, activities and passions of the family. Today, the Foundation operates mainly in two areas: marine conservation and life science research. In both, the Foundation’s goal is to show leadership to effect real progress and change. The Foundation also undertakes more small-scale, but no-less important, community projects, mostly in Switzerland, but on occasion beyond.
Ernesto and his sister Dona Bertarelli share the Chair of the Foundation. Their mother, Maria-Iris, is a trustee.