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A Surge of Major Donations for Brain Research

The brain is one of the human body’s most complex organs and there is a lot about it that is still unknown. According to Judi Liu MD, Ph.D., assistant neurology professor at Brown University, there is no other scientific or medical problem that has as much potential as brain research.

A record-breaking $100 million dollar gift from Robert J. Carney and Nancy D. Carney will enable Brown University neurologists to study uncharted functions of the brain spanning from why we need sleep to diseases such as ALS and Alzheimer’s. Robert J. Carney, a Brown alumnus and founder of both Vacation Publications Inc. and Jet Capital Corp. hopes to, “quicken the pace of scientific discovery and help find cures to some of the world’s most persistent and devastating diseases.” This generous gift, the largest in the school’s 254-year history, will make Brown University one of the best-endowed brain institutes in the country.

Robert and Nancy Carney are not alone in their mission to fund brain research – in the past several years there has been a steady flow of donations from various individual donors.

  1. Joan and Sanford Weill donated $185 million to the University of California, San Francisco in 2016. Their donation helped create the new UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences and gave financial aid to Ph.D. students in the neuroscience field.

  2. Co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, has donated a total $500 million to the Allen Institute for Brain Science since its founding in 2003. Allen experienced the effects of Alzheimer’s first-hand with his mother and now “hopes to foment breakthroughs in neuroscience and unlock great unsolved mysteries of how the brain works.”

  3. The Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience was founded by Chinese billionaires Tianqiao Chen and Chrissy Luo with their $115 million donation to CalTech. Their goal, announced in 2016, is a $1 billion donation to brain discovery, treatment and development.

  4. In 2015, the University of Southern California received a $50 million donation from Mark and Mary Stevens to endow the Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute.

There is an air of excitement around brain research and the neurosciences, especially with the development of recent technology that is helping scientists and researchers track brain functions that once seemed nearly impossible. Much like the war on cancer that began over 50 years ago, advancements are sure to come but the road to definitive answers could still be decades away. Current and future neuroscience donors should understand that achieving the big milestones are likely to take some time. For now, we all appreciate the neuro-advances that are already underway thanks to these generous donors.


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