Nobody has ever donated so much money dedicated to better understanding the foundations of mental illness.
The gift, announced earlier this week, is being made by Ted Stanley to his Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute to support its ongoing — and new — research into the genetic and molecular basis of psychiatric disorders.
Here’s a summary of what the money will be used for:
Stanley Center Director Steven E. Hyman, former Harvard provost and professor of stem cell and regenerative biology and of neurobiology at Harvard, said the Stanley gift in the short term will provide a boost for additional genetic sequencing for schizophrenia, autism, bipolar disorder, and other mental conditions. The gift will also allow the center to embark on the kind of long-term research needed to illuminate the numerous and complex factors at work in mental illnesses.
As even the most recent advances in schizophrenia genetics has shown us, we still have a long ways to go to understanding mental illness:
The announcement comes just hours after the release of a major genetic analysis of schizophrenia in the scientific journal Nature, which found 108 locations in the human genome associated with the disease.
Only 108? Yikes — that’s a lot. In “purely” genetic diseases, you’ll find just a handful of locations associated with the disease (or even just one). This finding clearly demonstrates the vast complexity of the task at hand. Mental illness will never likely be boiled down to a simple set of genetic components.
What the research gift will do is help us to better understand how genetics plays a role — and a very important one at that — in most mental illness. It could even lead to new breakthroughs in treatments decades from now.
The Stanley Center was established in 2007 to explore just these kinds of questions. Seven years later, it’s making headway in this understanding — and $650 million will definitely help push that effort forward.
According to the Boston Globe, Stanley, 83, made “his fortune heading MBI, a Connecticut company that markets and sells collectibles. He and his late wife, Vada, became deeply invested in mental health issues when their son, Jonathan, suffered from bipolar disorder in college.” It’s amazing how much our priorities can change when suddenly a loved one is impacted by the effects of mental illness.
Kudos to Ted Stanley for making such a generously awesome gift.
Read the full story: $650M gift to Broad seeks to propel psychiatric research