Univ. of Washington gets $50M gift to create brain health institute

Dr. Jürgen Unützer, acting scientific director of the Institute for Brain Health Solutions. (Scott Areman / UW Medicine Photo)

The University of Washington is putting a $50 million philanthropic donation toward a new institute that will research and develop treatments for brain disorders.

Called the Institute for Brain Health Solutions, the center will focus on three main areas over the next five years: cognitive aging and brain health, the effects of physical and emotional trauma on the brain, and the treatment of addiction.

“What we’ve learned over the last decade is that brain health and mental health problems are the single largest drivers of poor health, of health-related disability, not just in our community but in our country and really around the world,” Dr. Jürgen Unützer, chairman of the UW School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, said in a video announcing the new center. Unützer serves as the institute’s acting scientific director.

The new institute is funded by a $50 million gift from Lynn and Mike Garvey, who own Saltchuk, a group of maritime, air cargo and logistics businesses. The Garvey’s said they were moved to make the gift after Washington lawmakers earmarked $225 million for the UW Medicine Behavioral Health Teaching Facility, a 150-bed hospital.

“At some point, almost every family is affected by a brain health problem such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease or addiction,” Lynn Garvey said in a statement. “These diseases are so common and so devastating, and we wanted to do something to help.”

The Institute for Brain Health Solutions will also establish an “innovation clinic” that will combine researchers, clinicians and patients in a single space, the aim of which is to find new solutions with input from multiple stakeholders and fast-track treatments. UW is in the process of searching for a physical space for the center, which joins similar Seattle-area organizations including the Allen Institute that are researching how the human brain works.