UCSF Neurosciences Gather to Celebrate Launch of Weill Institute

Stephen Hauser and UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood present Joan and Sandy Weill with white physicians’ coats
Stephen Hauser (left), MD, the inaugural director of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, and UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood (center), MBBS, present Joan Weill and Sandy Weill (far right) with white physicians’ coats during a celebration to launch the institute. Photo by Elena Graham

UC San Francisco’s neurosciences community on Wednesday gathered to celebrate the launch of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, made possible by the recent $185 million gift from Joan and Sanford I. “Sandy” Weill.

UCSF neurosciences faculty, staff, trainees and students celebrated with the Weills during a lunchtime event at Mission Bay under a tent on the Fourth Street surface parking lot, known as Block 23A, where the future home of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences will be constructed.

Joan Weill, on stage with husband Sandy Weill, addresses the UCSF neurosciences community during the celebration
Joan Weill (right) and Sanford I. “Sandy” Weill celebrated the launch of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences with the UCSF neurosciences community during an event Wednesday at Mission Bay. Photo by Elena Graham

“What could be more inspiring than this?” said UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, to the several hundred in attendance. “The UCSF neurosciences community all standing together in one place, neurospiraling in one direction: Towards the future of the field. This is a celebration of your unrivaled caliber.”

The Weills’ donation, the largest-ever single gift to UCSF, will provide the lead investment for the construction of a six-story, 270,000-square-foot building that will bring together psychiatry bench lab research with other basic neurosciences research, as well as clinical and support spaces, to drive advances aimed at new treatments for disorders of the brain and nervous system.

“Your vision will be realized on this very spot where we are standing today, in the heart of an area known worldwide for its innovation, entrepreneurship and biotechnology,” Hawgood said, addressing the Weills during his remarks. “The UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences will embody all of these elements and channel them towards translating scientific discoveries into viable therapies for patients.”

Stephen Hauser, MD, the inaugural director of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, said the new building will embody the institute’s founding principles: “It will house great young people, many new investigators, technology, drug discovery and also be a home for outstanding, passionate, state-of-the-art clinical care for our patients.”

UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences steering committee members Daniel Lowenstein, Matthew State, Sam Hawgood, Stephen Hauser,  Joan Weill, Sandy Weill, Talmadge King Jr., Stanley Prusiner, and Mitchel Berger stand on stage together
From left, the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences steering committee members Daniel Lowenstein, MD; Matthew State, MD, PhD; Sam Hawgood, MBBS; Stephen Hauser, MD; Joan Weill; Sandy Weill; Talmadge King Jr., MD; Stanley Prusiner, MD; and Mitchel Berger, MD. Roger Nicoll, MD, also is a steering committee member. Photo by Elena Graham

Beyond leading the investment for the construction of the neurosciences building, the Weills’ gift provides support for graduate students and young investigators in the neurosciences and supplies funding for high-risk, high-reward research.

During the event Hauser announced the Weill Neuroscience Innovation Awards, saying UCSF will soon issue a campus-wide request for proposals. “These awards will support exciting transdisciplinary research programs at UCSF aimed at accelerating progress against brain diseases,” he said.

The donation from the Weill Family Foundation and the Weills raised philanthropic commitments to UCSF’s neuroscience programs in the last year alone to more than $500 million.

The philanthropy will enable UCSF to accelerate the development of new therapies for diseases affecting the brain and nervous system, including psychiatric disorders.

“The UCSF Weill Institute will intellectually bridge our neuroscience faculty members across all of our campuses, and will more strongly unite UCSF’s world-class researchers with its top-ranked physicians, allowing them to collaborate across typically siloed departmental boundaries,” Hawgood said.

The Weills spoke to the ways in which the institute could push forward change for the neurosciences.

The UCSF neuroscienes community mingles in the tent set up for the event to celebrate the launch of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences
Members of the UCSF neurosciences community and VIP guests mingle during the celebration to launch the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences. The event was held on the Fourth Street surface parking lot, known as Block 23A, where the future home of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences will be constructed. Photo by Elena Graham

“This is probably one of the most exciting days of my life,” Joan Weill said.

“It is all about what you do to give us, patients, hope,” she said. “And that is just the most important thing that you can do. So thank you all for that you do.”

Sandy Weill said he is looking forward to an engagement that is going to be very fruitful. “I think we really associated ourselves with a terrific group of people and a great institution – a great public institution – that really can do a lot for this world and help make it a better place,” he said.

At the conclusion of the event, Hawgood and Hauser presented the Weills with honorary white physicians’ coats embroidered with the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences name.

“You are now part of the transformation of neurosciences here at UCSF with the inauguration of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences,” Hawgood said to the Weills and the UCSF neurosciences community in attendance. “This truly is a transformative moment here at UCSF.”

For more campus news and resources, visit Pulse of UCSF.