Industry-Sponsored Research Week

Vanderbilt gets $20 million gift to establish neuroscience drug discovery center


By David Schwartz
Published: May 12th, 2020

Vanderbilt University received $20 million from The William K. Warren Foundation, located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to establish the Warren Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery.

Led by co-directors Craig Lindsley and Jeffrey Conn, the center employs approximately 100 scientists working to translate essential research ideas into drug treatments that prevent serious brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease.

One of the more promising compounds, VU319, developed by Vanderbilt researchers and sponsored by the Warren Foundation, could help slow memory loss accompanying various cognitive diseases. It recently went into human phase-1 FDA clinical trials — a rare accomplishment for an academic research program.

“The Warren Foundation is a visionary organization dedicated to supporting scientific and medical research designed to treat and prevent some of the most tragic, vexing diseases known to humankind. Having the foundation’s imprimatur is truly a mark of distinction for Vanderbilt,” said interim chancellor and provost Susan R. Wente, who is also a leading cell biologist. “We are honored by the Warren family’s multigenerational support across many areas of our beloved university. This latest gift demonstrates, once again, their enduring commitment to improving the human condition.”

“We have been impressed with the creative approaches and hard work demonstrated by Vanderbilt researchers, especially Craig and Jeff, in the Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery,” said John-Kelly Warren, CEO of the Warren Foundation and grandson of the founders. “Supporting novel, research-based methods to combat devastating cognitive impairments and mental illnesses lies at the heart of our foundation’s mission.”

In addition to supporting research efforts, the gift will be used to create an endowment designed to encourage mentorship and the development of a long-term pipeline of research leaders.

“Genuine breakthroughs sometimes require taking paths that may not seem promising — or at least commercially viable — in the earliest stages of scientific investigation,” said Craig Lindsley, who holds the William K. Warren, Jr. Chair in Medicine. “The support of philanthropic organizations like the Warren Foundation is critical to making discoveries that may not otherwise see the light of day and translate them to the clinic.”

Lawrence Marnett, cancer researcher and dean of basic sciences in the School of Medicine, said the Warren Foundation has been a steadfast partner to medical researchers at Vanderbilt and other institutions across the country.

“The basis of any remarkable scientific advancement begins first with unlocking fundamental knowledge,” Marnett said. “This work often takes years of patient, systematic trial and error. Yet, the ultimate benefit to society can be transformational. The Warren Foundation has understood and supported this belief for many years — and I am grateful they are doing so once again with this most recent gift.”

The gift comes on top of seven endowed faculty chairs supported by the foundation, as well as the William K. Warren Foundation Scholarship for deserving undergraduates in the College of Arts & Science.

Source: Vanderbilt

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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