The Bertarelli family has been active in philanthropy for a long time. Maria Iris Bertarelli, the wife of Fabio and mother of Ernesto and Dona, opened the way in the 1970s with her contribution to a number of social and charity projects in Italy and Switzerland. Amongst others, she was the president of the Association des Services Bénévoles Vaudois (ASBV) in the French part of Switzerland for over ten years.
Later on, the family created the Bertarelli Foundation in order to manage their own philanthropic projects. Founded in 1998 as a tribute to Fabio Bertarelli after his death, the Foundation was initially dedicated to the healthcare sector in which the family company Serono was operating.
For its first ten years, the Bertarelli Foundation promoted research and discussion amongst clinicians and ethicists of issues concerning reproductive health and the treatment of infertily. Its aim was to achieve a better understanding of couples’ sterility and a better acknowledgement of sterility as a true disease.
Through its participation in studies, treatments and publications, the Foundation contributed significantly to the reduction of multiple pregnancies in the world and thanks to its commitment, a major improvement has been the implantation of only one embryo in infertility treatments.
Since 1998, the Bertarelli Foundation also financed a number of research programmes focusing on the social aspects of sterility, including a website about sexuality for adolescents. Today all activities in the field of reproductive health have been taken over by the Fondation FABER in Lausanne.
In 2008 the Bertarelli Foundation was expanded to include all the family’s philanthropic interests in the areas of lifesciences, culture, education, sport and environment.
Ernesto and his sister Dona Bertarelli are the co-presidents of the Bertarelli Foundation. Their mother, Maria Iris, and Ernesto's wife, Kirsty, are also Board members.