UT Southwestern completes $ 1 billion campaign for brain research

UT Southwestern Medical Center completed a $ 1 billion campaign to support its brain research institute, the medical center announced Wednesday.

The five-year campaign for the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute includes $ 500 million in investments in facilities and programs from UTSW and $ 500 million in community philanthropic support for research, technology enhancements and faculty recruitment.

Funding will go toward advancing research on the underlying mechanisms of brain disease and enhancing clinical care.

The campaign is one of the largest brain-focused investments at a US academic medical center, UTSW said in a press release.

We are very squarely focused on reducing the burden of brain disease across a spectrum of illnesses. Lake, [this funding] is appropriately sized for that, ”said Dr. William Dauer, inaugural director of the Brain Institute and professor of neurology and neuroscience.

William T. Duration
William T. Duration(UT Southwestern)

The investment is a big step for the Brain Institute, which was established in 2015 with a $ 36 million gift from Dallas businessman Peter O’Donnell Jr. and his wife Edith’s foundation. Peter, who died in October 2021 at 97, and Edith, who died in November 2020 at 94, were philanthropic legends in North Texas, donating more than $ 300 million to UTSW in their lifetimes.

Funding for brain research has risen significantly in recent years. In 2019, the University of California San Francisco, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Washington received $ 106 million to launch a joint brain disorder research initiative.

Already, funds from UTSW’s $ 1 billion campaign have supported large projects at the medical center, including the addition of a third, 12-story tower expansion at the William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital. The tower serves as the Brain Institute’s home for in-patient clinical care for patients with brain disease and injury.

A nine-story research tower – called the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Biomedical Research Building – will open this year, expanding research space for the Brain Institute’s more than 2,100 faculty members and additional recruits.

“The funds that have been raised will make the O’Donnell Brain Institute an epicenter for research,” said Robert Rowling, chair of the Campaign for Brain Steering Committee and Omni Hotels owner. “There’s no telling what kind of discoveries are going to come out of this.”

Efforts to recruit top-notch researchers and clinicians will also get support from the new investment.

Research at the institute spans from understanding the basic mechanisms of the brain to clinical research targeting specific brain disorders. Collaboration across departments and a multidisciplinary approach to care are crucial for Brain Institute patients, Dauer said.

“Solving brain disease is going to take everyone working together – the person studying molecules in the lab, the clinician understanding a patient’s symptoms, the staff caring for the patient and everyone in between,” he said.

Some of the research areas that will be particularly critical in coming years include finding the root cause of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease, Dauer said. The Brain Institute will also focus on brain disease treatments already underway, like high-intensity focused ultrasound to treat patients with essential tremors.

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