Marking the largest ever donation to psychiatric research, philanthropist Ted Stanley is handing over a whopping $650 million to galvanise scientific research into conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
The funds are being gifted to the Stanley Center at the Broad Institute, a Cambridge, USA-based biomedical research institution that brings together faculty from MIT, Harvard University, the Harvard-affiliated hospitals, and collaborators worldwide.
The commitment will consist of annual gifts during Mr Stanley's lifetime followed by a bequest, taking the total amount gifted (including prior donations) to more than $825 million.
According to the Broad Institute, Mr Stanley and his late wife Vada Stanley "have been instrumental to the progress made thus far in identifying the genetic risk factors for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and the initiation of therapeutic efforts based on those discoveries", and the new commitment "is the culmination of a 25-year personal mission to discover the biology of psychiatric disorders and lay the groundwork for effective therapies".
"We are going to illuminate the biology behind these conditions," said Eric Lander, founding director and president of the Broad Institute. "If we know the biological causes, we can begin to dispel the stigma around people battling mental illness, and rigorously pursue better treatments that will transform patients' lives."
80 new schizophrenia genes discovered
Meanwhile, researchers have discovered over 100 genes that may increase the risk of developing schizophrenia, 83 of which were previously under the radar.
The biggest molecular genetic study of schizophrenia ever conducted, published this week in the journal Nature, has detected genetic risk factors "on a huge and unprecedented scale and shed new light on the biological cause of the condition", noted Cardiff University's Michael O’Donovan, who led the study.
The new findings also point to new biological mechanisms and pathways, with genes linked with schizophrenia particularly active in the immune system, the researchers noted.
"The wealth of new findings provides a huge number of launch pads for understanding the disease and will kick-start the stalled process of developing new treatments for patients and their families who are even now still stigmatised and blamed for the condition," Professor O'Donovan said.