Luxury Brands Will Fund Harvard Lab’s Medicinal Plant Research in 3-Year Agreement


Luxury giants LVMH and Christian Dior will fund the Harvard Davis Lab’s research on the genetic barcoding of nearly 2,000 edible and medicinal plants.

Harvard’s Office of Technology Development organized a three-year research agreement between the Harvard Herbaria’s Davis Lab, the perfume and cosmetics arm of Dior, and the research sector of LVMH — a luxury goods conglomerate that consists of several subsidiary brands.

According to the Harvard Gazette — a University-run publication — the collaboration seeks to use big data techniques to analyze plant species from across the world. The project will produce a publicly accessible database for medicinal plant identification, as well as to help predict species’ response to climate change.

Charles C. Davis, a professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and the lab’s principal investigator, wrote in an emailed statement to The Crimson that the research seeks to “gain insights that can inspire innovative solutions and better protect these species in the face of a changing climate” through the “analysis and digitization of plant species data captured in herbaria.”


According to Harvard Office of Technology Development spokesperson Kirsten Mabry, the researchers will “develop a digital collection and genomic library of nearly 2,000 medicinal and horticulturally important flowering plants.”

“LVMH Recherche and Parfums Christian Dior provide funding to support the advancement of the research project in the Davis Lab at Harvard’s Herbaria,” Mabry wrote.

Harvard Herbaria interim Director and OEB professor Elena M. Kramer said the collaboration came at the initiative of the luxury giants.

“My understanding is that LVMH, Dior had a relationship with a faculty member at the Medical School,” Kramer said. “They were put in touch with Chuck, and then the conversation grew to include the broader herbarium.”

Kramer said LVMH and Dior have both “practical and aspirational goals” for their collaboration with Harvard, including product development and affiliation with the University.

Though the companies cannot use Harvard’s name in product advertising, Kramer said, “they were very keen to have an affiliation with Harvard.”

According to Kramer, LVMH and Dior also stand to benefit from the Davis Lab’s plant research “whether cosmetic or related to human health,” which will make genome sequencing of important medicinal plants more widely available.

Most of the plant samples sequenced will be obtained from the Harvard Herbaria, but according to Kramer, LVMH and Dior also sent a small sample of proprietary roses to the Davis Lab, which will be sequenced and sent back to the companies.

All Harvard Herbaria data will be made public but there is no definite timeline for doing so, according to Kramer.

“I would say it is Harvard policy, but it’s also part of the policy of just the broader academic community,” she said. “It’s just the premise that we all operate on.”

Correction: March 8, 2024

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Harvard Herbaria data will be made public on a two-year timeline. In fact, there is no definite timeline for making the data public.