A Lifetime of Donations Leads to Important Mental Health Research

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The Stanley Center is set to receive a donation of $650 million from patron Ted Stanley.
Image: Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research

Apparently once isn’t enough for Ted Stanley: Having amassed a fortune selling sports collectibles, 83-year-old Stanley has just announced his third massive donation to MIT-Harvard’s Broad Institute, a center for psychiatric research.

Beginning with a call in 2007 from Ed Scolnick, then head of research and development at Merck, Stanley has contributed significant funds to the Broad Institute to vastly increase the amount of testing the organization can do to understand genetic causes for psychiatric disorders.

Stanley’s first donation of $100 million started the Stanley Center at the Broad Institute. A chaser of $50 million was recently followed by a third donation of $650 million, some of which is to be bequeathed after Stanley’s death.

With pharmaceutical companies contributing less and less to psychiatric research, Stanley’s donations come at an opportune time. Researchers at the Institute have already used the funds to accomplish a study of 36,989 patients with schizophrenia, which determined 108 regions of DNA that appear to be linked to the disease. Future research into DNA sequencing will now be possible, thanks to Stanley’s contributions.

“Having philanthropy allows us to take thoughtful risk,” says Steven Hyman, now the runner of the Stanley Center. “We’re fortunate, and I feel [the] enormous weight of responsibility to get this right.”

“For the first time, there’s a clear path forward,” agrees Eric Lander, the president of the Broad Institute. With drug makers having all but abandoned research into alternate cures and causes of mental illness, a donation such as Stanley’s provides for important research into the issue.

Having joined a large group of researchers to form a consortium to pool thousands of subjects, the Broad Institute reported in 2011 that they have determined the five genetic markers associated with schizophrenia. They look forward to discovering even more genetic links, thanks to Stanley’s financial assistance.

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