Donation to Brown University Will Boost Research Into Brain Diseases

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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Brown University has received a $100 million donation from alumnus Robert J. Carney and Nancy D. Carney to advance research into some of the world’s most challenging diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

The gift triggered a change in the name of the already well-established Brown Institute for Brain Science, to the new Robert J. and Nancy D. Carney Institute for Brain Science.

The gift was described by Diane Lipscombe, PhD, a professor of neuroscience and director of the Carney Institute, as a transformative moment that is going to catapult Brown and its brain science institute.

The Carneys are long-time supporters of Brown and are the donors of two endowed professorships — one in economics and another in neuroscience. This is the third $100 million gift Brown University has received in its 254-year history.

“This is a signal moment when scientists around the world are poised to solve some of the most important puzzles of the human brain,” Christina Paxson, PhD, president of Brown University, said in a Brown University news story.

“This extraordinarily generous gift will give Brown the resources to be at the forefront of this drive for new knowledge and therapies. We know that discoveries in brain science in the years to come will dramatically reshape human capabilities, and Brown will be a leader in this critical endeavor,” Paxson said.

The new Carney Institute now will be able to accelerate hiring of leading faculty and post-doctoral researchers working in brain science, fund new high-impact studies, and buy essential new equipment and infrastructures in technology-sensitive areas of exploration.

More specifically, researchers will work on brain-computer interfaces, computational neuroscience, and mechanisms of cell death as part of their efforts to identify new therapeutic targets for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Brown’s brain science researchers are long-time explorers of the brain from different perspectives – from studying genes and circuits to healthy behavior and psychiatric disorders. Their work has contributed to produce critical insights and tools to help see, map and better understand problems in the brain and nervous system.

“[with this gift] we will be able to crack the neural codes, push discoveries forward and address some of the largest challenges facing humanity, at the same time training the next generation of brain scientists,” Lipscombe said.

The new Carney Institute also will move into expanded new quarters at 164 Angell St. early in 2019, after renovation of the building that formerly housed Brown’s administrative offices.

The new facilities will have additional much-needed laboratory space to increase collaboration among teams from cognitive neuroscience, computational neuroscience and neuro-engineering.

These teams are working on processes such as decoding neural signals, developing new ways to use these signals in assistive technology, and mining neural data for more accurate predictors of psychiatric conditions.

The new location will be closer to Brown’s Jonathan M. Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship, which brings new possibilities of collaborative studies that will support discoveries and their affects on society.

The Carney’s gift is part of Brown University’s $3 billion Brown Together comprehensive campaign, which has raised $1.7 billion to date. A total of $148 million was dedicated to support research and education in brain science. The donation supports one of Brown’s core research priorities defined in its strategic plan —  to understand the human brain.