Weill Neurohub research effort to develop treatments for brain diseases

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UC Berkeley, UCSF and the University of Washington have announced the creation of the Weill Neurohub, a research effort to develop new technology to treat neurological and psychiatric diseases funded by a $106 million gift from the Weill Family Foundation.

The Neurohub will consist of a network of scientists working in several disciplines — such as chemistry, computer science and engineering — collaborating to conduct research on brain disease, according to a Berkeley News release. It will also involve the work of 17 national laboratories specializing in the areas of data science, bioengineering and imaging.

Past and current research in the field of neuroscience can be elevated with upgrades in the various types of technology being used in the Neurohub, said Sanford I. Weill, chairman of the Weill Family Foundation, in the release.

“The Neurohub will seize this opportunity by building bridges between people with diverse talents and training and bringing them together in a common cause: discovering new treatments to help the millions of patients with such conditions as Alzheimer’s disease and mental illness,” Sanford Weill said in the release.

The donor and namesake of the Neurohub, the Weill Family Foundation was a philanthropic effort established in 1967 by Sanford I. Weill. Along with his wife Joan Weill, he pledged to donate at least half of their wealth to philanthropy, according to the Foundation Directory Online.

The Weill Neurohub will use new methods to address and research neurological issues. Researchers plan to use NexGen 7T, a powerful MRI scanner developed at UC Berkeley that allows for better spatial resolution in viewing the brain, according to Dan Feldman, a campus neurobiology professor and one of the executive committee members for the Weill Neurohub. NexGen 7T allows researchers to deepen their current understandings of normal human brain function and identify the roots of problems in neurological diseases, Feldman said.

“As basic discoveries are made about brain functions, some of these discoveries can be used to come up with better approaches to treat neurological disease,” Feldman said. “This also benefits students, as with the increased research funding we can better train students in scientific research.”

The Neurohub will unite the research groups at each of the three separate institutions, allowing them to collaboratively create new methods and make discoveries beyond their individual capacities, Feldman explained.

The research will begin in the next one to two months, and will continue for a 20-year period, according to Feldman.

“We are looking forward to the Neurohub being an engine for tremendous discovery and even more growth and excitement within neuroscience at Berkeley and other institutions,” Feldman said. “We don’t know what those discoveries will be, but we will push forward and make major progress.”

Contact Angelina Wang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @dc_angelina.