$185 Million Donation to Research, Treat Neurological Diseases

Philanthropists Joan and Sandy Weill have donated $185 million to develop a neuroscience institute at U.C. San Francisco. The donation will include a clinic to treat migraine and chronic pain and for research and treatment of other neurological disorders that are comorbid with migraine, including epilepsy, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders.

Although the amount given to the migraine and pain clinic has not been disclosed, it’s exciting to see migraine as one of the five areas highlighted in the press release announcing the donation. (The others include neurodegenerative diseases, movement disorders, sleep disorders, and a center to research techniques to restore and repair neurological function). The mention is a subtle acknowledgement that migraine is a serious illness that can wreak havoc on people’s lives.

Even the Washington Post’s story on the donation highlighted migraine. It began with this wonderful sentence: “Financier Sanford I. “Sandy” Weill and his wife, Joan, on Tuesday announced a $185 million gift for brain research that they hope will radically change the way we approach such issues as mental illnesses, migraines and sleep disorders by bringing them under the umbrella of neurosciences.”

The sentence is wonderful for so many reasons. One, the donation will benefit high-profile neurological diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, yet the article mentions mental illnesses, migraine, and sleep disorders first. Two, it recognizes that we need a radical change to the way those illnesses are currently understood. Three, it implies an awareness of the heavy weight of stigma that certain illnesses carry.

In addition to the focusing on a wide range of neurological diseases, this donation will fund basic neurological research to answer fundamental questions about the brain. Although this research isn’t on migraine directly, a better understanding of how the brain works and why some brains are more resilient to aging or stress could provide crucial information for understanding and treating migraine.

Migraine research is still underfunded and progress can feel excruciatingly slow, but this donation is yet another sign that we’re on the cusp of exciting changes in the understanding and treatment of migraine.

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