Office of the President

November 12, 2019

Visionary gift creates neuroscience research opportunities in partnership with UCSF and UC Berkeley

Ana Mari Cauce

Collaboration is a requirement for every great scientific leap forward, and as our knowledge of our world grows, meaningful advances will depend more and more on cooperation across disciplines, institutions and sectors. Thanks to a visionary gift from the Weill Family Foundation, the UW today joins UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley to launch a new era of collaboration in the study of the human brain. The $106 million gift establishes the Weill Neurohub, which will nurture once-unimaginable collaborations among neuroscientists and researchers in non-biological fields from engineering to chemistry. Working together and drawing on disparate expertise, we can speed discovery of how to treat and prevent devastating brain and nervous system disorders.

The Weill Neurohub will enable researchers from the UW, UCSF and UC Berkeley who are working on cross-disciplinary neuroscience projects to apply for funding supported by the Weills. Importantly, the funding will be geared toward proposals that are especially innovative and high risk/high reward. Funding research that is both interdisciplinary and ambitious will help to spur advances that might take much longer under traditional funding models. The partnership will also involve expertise and resources from the U.S. Department of Energy’s network of 17 national labs around the country. Bringing together such a vast array of expertise and computing power across the public and private sectors creates enormous potential for progress, and the UW is proud to join with these partners to advance discovery in neuroscience.

The idea for the Weill Neurohub originated with the Weill Family Foundation chair, philanthropist Sandy Weill. His vision of applying diverse areas of expertise and skills to a complex problem affecting people’s health is aligned with the UW’s Population Health Initiative, which makes the UW a natural partner in this endeavor. The Neurohub’s leadership includes faculty from each University and the UW will be represented by Professor Tom Daniel, the Joan and Richard Komen Endowed Chair. Tom, who holds appointments in the departments of biology, computer science and engineering and the graduate program on neurobiology and behavior, embodies the philosophy of the Neurohub that the potential for great progress exists at the intersections of biology, technology and other sciences. Also representing the UW on the Weill Neurohub’s Leadership Committee is Dr. Jürgen Unützer, Professor and Chair of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences in the UW School of Medicine.

Advances in our understanding of the brain, combined with powerful new technology, have brought us to the brink of dramatic gains in solving afflictions from Alzheimer’s disease to bipolar disorder to traumatic brain injury. The Weills’ visionary investment in research has the potential to be a game-changer, with impacts that may be felt far into humanity’s future. The most exciting work is ahead of us.