$106M Weill Neurohub: Philanthropy creates a groundbreaking partnership to cure disease

November 13, 2019

The Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute (HWNI) is thrilled to announce the launch of the Weill Neurohub, a $106 million initiative that creates an innovative research partnership between UC Berkeley (UCB), UC San Francisco (UCSF), and the University of Washington (UW) to accelerate the development of new treatments for diseases and disorders of the brain. This groundbreaking endeavor is funded by a generous gift from the Weill Family Foundation, led by philanthropists Joan and Sandy Weill whose giving to the neuroscience community now totals over $300 million. This new gift builds on their $185 million gift establishing the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences in 2016, which has a mission to break down barriers between clinical specialties and basic neuroscience research.

The Weill Neurohub will expand on this vision by supporting new interdisciplinary and cross-campus collaborations that combine the scientific and clinical strengths of these three world-renowned public universities. The goal is to achieve breakthroughs in the treatment of seeming intractable conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease through new molecular, chemical and genomic technologies, development of new models for disease, and advances in computation and device engineering. Together these will enable the discovery of disease mechanisms, the development of new methods for early detection of disease, and for novel therapeutics.

Among the leading philanthropists of our time, Joan and Sandy Weill have supported several major educational, cultural and civic organizations across the United States and internationally. Joan Weill is a tireless supporter of several organizations including leadership volunteer service to New York’s Citymeals-on-Wheels and Carnegie Hall, The Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Paul Smith’s College of the Adirondacks, UCSF’s Board of Overseers, The Green Music Center at Sonoma State University, and New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine’s Women’s Health Symposium. 

Sandy Weill is chairman emeritus of Citigroup and CEO of Casa Rosa Ventures. In addition to service on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and numerous corporate boards, Sandy is a member of the UC Berkeley Board of Visitors, the UC Davis Chancellor’s Board of Advisors, Chairman of the Executive Council at UCSF, Chairman of the Lang International Music Foundation, and honorary chair of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy.

Sandy has served as Chair of Weill Cornell Medicine, Carnegie Hall, and Weill Hall and the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University. He is Founder and Chairman of the National Academy Foundation, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

HWNI is at the forefront of UCB’s participation in the Weill Neurohub. Ehud Isacoff, the director of HWNI, will be the co-director of the Weill Neurohub, along with Stephen Hauser, director of UCSF’s Weill Institute for Neurosciences. Their UW counterpart is Tom Daniel. The Weill Neurohub will operate in partnership with the national labs, including super-computing and device and molecular engineering leaders at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. 

The first and second floors of Berkeley’s Life Sciences Addition building will become the UCB headquarters of the Weill Neurohub, and the building will be renamed Joan & Sanford I. Weill Hall, in honor of this generous foundational gift. 

As an interdisciplinary institute with 70 faculty in 12 different departments, HWNI members regularly tackle challenging questions in neuroscience in collaborative teams that bring together the expertise of researchers from multiple disciplines. Our members have also been instrumental in developing revolutionary new technologies for neuroscience applications, such as neural prosthetics that could restore movement in patients. Additionally, our new 7T MRI machine, which will be operational by mid-2020, will allow us to visualize brain structure and function at unprecedented resolution — the first non-invasive means of observing activity in individual layers of cortex and single cortical column microcircuits. 

The goal of the Weill Neurohub is to enable new collaborative efforts and jump-start novel high-risk / high-reward projects that can transform the clinic. To do this, the Weill Neurohub will provide support for innovative ideas and for postdocs and graduate students, as well as for the development of key research infrastructure. The directions of the efforts will be designed in workshops that will kick off in early 2020 and lead to calls for proposals for funding to begin in January 2021. Please read the UC Berkeley announcement to learn more.

The Berkeley Weill Neurohub Working Group:

Dan Feldman, Professor of Neurobiology
Yang Dan, Professor of Neurobiology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator
Andrew Dillin, Professor of Genetics, Genomics and Development, Thomas and Stacey Siebel Distinguished Chair in Stem Cell Biology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator
Marla Feller, Professor of Neurobiology, Paul Licht Distinguished Professor in Biological Sciences
William Jagust, Professor of Public Health
Na Ji, Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Physics
Daniela Kaufer, Acting Associate Dean and Professor of Integrative Biology, Class of 1943 Memorial Chair
Ehud “Udi” Isacoff, Professor of Neurobiology, Evan Rauch Chair in Neuroscience, Director of Berkeley Neuroscience

All are members of Berkeley Neuroscience.