Benno Schmidt, 86, a pioneering venture capitalist and one of the architects the National Cancer Program, died of heart failure Oct. 21.

As a member of the National Panel of Consultants established in 1970 by Sen. Ralph Yarborough, Schmidt helped shape the National Cancer Act of 1971. On the panel, Schmidt advocated giving the cancer program a unique, high-priority status within the government-financed biomedical research enterprise.

After the passage of the Act, Schmidt was named chairman of the President’s Cancer Panel. In that role, he helped NCI secure its first substantial appropriation: $100 million in 1972. Two years later, in 1974, the panel met with then-President Richard Nixon and convinced him to support legislation to create the National Research Service Awards for training biomedical scientists.

Schmidt’s work, in association with John Hay Whitney, involved making investments in promising technologies. In fact, the two financiers are credited with coining the team “venture capital,” by shortening the word “adventure,” The New York Times reported.

Schmidt was the former chairman of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Boards of Overseers and Managers. At the time of his death, he was the honorary co-chairman of the boards.

In a letter to MSK staff, cancer center President Paul Marks quoted a remark Schmidt made at an event marking the 15th anniversary of the passage of the National Cancer Act:

“I wish there were a faster way that we could cure disease without going through the laborious process of trying to understand it. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts. In the most literal sense of the words: life is not that simple.