A new era starts today with the opening of the UCSF Joan and Sanford I. Weill Neurosciences Building, creating a collaborative hub for one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive neuroscience centers, on a campus that is home to Nobel-Prize winning research on the nervous system and brain.

The facility, which was designed to foster connections among scientists and clinicians in neurology, neurosurgery and psychiatry, will serve as a global destination for researchers to develop innovative treatments for intractable brain diseases.

patient area inside the Weill Neurosciences Building

A patient area inside the UCSF Weill Neurosciences Building. Photo by Tom Seawell

The six-story building at 1651 4th St. will be the new hub for the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences and the UCSF headquarters for the Weill Neurohub, a research collaboration with UC Berkeley and the University of Washington that was launched in 2019 to support groundbreaking, cross-campus research.

Together with the nearby Sandler Neurosciences Center, Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Hall, Genentech Hall, and soon-to-be-opened Nancy Friend Pritzker Psychiatry Building, the facility will bring together some of the most innovative researchers in the field. The caliber and promise of that research is reflected in UCSF’s standing as the top recipient of competitive grants in neurology and neurosurgery from the National Institutes of Health.

The building will serve as a cornerstone of neurological care for UCSF Medical Center – recognized as the nation’s best hospital for neurology and neurosurgery by U.S. News & World Report for 2021-22 – with specially designed clinical areas to serve up to 450 patients per day.

“This is a remarkable time for neuroscience,” said S. Andrew Josephson, MD, professor and chair of the UCSF Department of Neurology and a member of the steering committee for the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences. “The UCSF Weill Neurosciences Building will stand as a beacon of hope, striving to push the frontier of what we know about the brain and expand the possibilities for effective treatments.”

Designed as a Nexus for People and Research

“The UCSF Weill Neurosciences Building is a place for patients with the most complex and challenging cases to receive expert care, and a place for researchers to find answers to the most perplexing neurological and psychiatric conditions,” said UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood. “The building’s design will enable us to bring researchers and clinicians together with our patients, to continue to advance that care into the future.”

The new building was designed to connect and integrate historically separated disciplines. Among the priorities is folding psychiatry research in the new Oberndorf Research Labs into the neuroscience program to accelerate understanding of the brain and develop novel treatments for psychiatric disorders, such as autism, depression and schizophrenia, alongside advances in neurology.

“Traditionally, neuroscience has been partitioned into sub-disciplines, working in relatively small labs with limited access to engineering and computational resources,” said Stephen Hauser, MD, director of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, and professor of neurology. “But big goals require close collaboration of large multidisciplinary teams. The UCSF Weill Neurosciences Building will enable widespread sharing of expertise, data and tools to tackle the big problems.”

Architects Mark Cavagnero Associates and SmithGroup designed the 282,500-square-foot facility to support a rich ecosystem for discovery, using open staircases and central corridors to foster community and catalyze collaborations.

The building provides space for multiple clinics and research centers, with dedicated laboratory areas integrated with engineering and computational research, to further our understanding of the brain’s complex biology and circuitry. It also has shared facilities for studying brain conditions caused by genetic diseases, as well as by autoimmune and infectious diseases.

view of downtown San Francisco from the Weill Neurosciences building

A view of downtown San Francisco from the UCSF Weill Neurosciences Building. Photo by Tom Seawell

“To create a building that was forward-thinking and engaging, we designed a state-of-the-art research space that is visually interconnected to the trees of Koret Quad and the blue skies of San Francisco,” said Mark Cavagnero, founding principal of Mark Cavagnero Associates. “Our design focuses on making the building feel warm and inviting by maximizing daylight, augmented with an atypical use of wood, bringing warmth and craft to everyone’s experience, from scientists and students in offices and labs, to patients and visitors in clinical areas.”

To meet its patients’ challenges, the space includes wide corridors to accommodate wheelchairs, handrails to guide patients from the waiting area to exam rooms, and spacious restrooms. The décor and floor patterns were selected to avoid abrupt changes that can disorient someone with neurological impairments, while separate clinician and patient corridors reduce the hubbub of traditional clinical spaces and allow patients to move to their clinic room unimpeded.

Supporting New Solutions for Intractable Illnesses

The building was made possible by a $185 million gift in 2016 from Joan and Sanford “Sandy” I. Weill and the Weill Family Foundation. The gift – one of the largest in the United States for neuroscience – brought the Weills’ more than five decades of philanthropy to a total of more than $1 billion in support of medical, educational, cultural and art institutions.

That support included an additional $106 million to launch the Weill Neurohub, whose emphasis on collaboration across three top universities in neuroscience research enables the most innovative projects to tap into an unprecedented strength in the field.

Sanford and Joan Weill pose for portrait together

Sanford "Sandy" I. and Joan Weill.

“Joan and I are ecstatic about the completion and opening of the building, as it has been a labor of love for us and so many over the years. Our goal is to bring together the resources and talent to tackle the most debilitating neurologic disorders and mental diseases,” said Sandy Weill. “This is a challenge that can’t be solved by one person or even one institution, given the vast resources needed. By partnering and bringing together the best and brightest in their respective fields and giving them the support and facilities they need, we believe they will have an enormous impact on improving the quality of people’s lives and curing the diseases that will present the biggest challenges to our country in the decades to come.”

That support has the potential to transform the lives of millions of people, Joan Weill added, noting the impact the Weills have already seen through the UCSF Weill Awards for high-risk, high-return research, which were funded through the Weills’ gift.

“It’s been very rewarding to partner with the UCSF team on this exciting project and we are very thankful for everyone’s hard work and dedication to make it a reality. The building is home to some of the most innovative neuroscientists, neurosurgeons, and clinicians in the world and the impact of their work and their collaboration will be felt immediately and for generations to come,” said Joan Weill. “We are also thrilled about bringing basic research in psychiatry into the fold of the neurosciences to help remove stigmas associated with mental health, so that they can be treated like any other disease. This is a very happy day for us and gives us great hope for the future.”

New Clinic May Offer Answers to Mysterious Symptoms

The facility will offer patients accelerated intake, consolidated diagnostic testing, typically over one to two days, and multiple consultations, both in-person and online, with expert physicians.

On the first floor, the new UCSF Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Neurology Clinic will shortcut the diagnostic odyssey for those patients with baffling brain symptoms that do not meet the standard criteria for any condition. These patients will be eligible for the Neurology Complex Diagnosis Program, which guides them from diagnostic evaluation to recommendations for next steps in treatment. In addition, the building’s clinics encompass four specialty-care centers that were previously located on three UCSF campuses: the UCSF Memory and Aging Center, Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroinflammation Center, Movement Disorder and Neuromodulation Center, and Neuro-Recovery Clinic.

These clinics provide diagnoses and treatments for patients with brain tumors, epilepsy, MS, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and conditions caused by stroke or spinal injuries. It also will include part of the UCSF Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases (IND), and the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI), which works to reduce the impact of dementia worldwide.

Exterior of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neuroscience

The UCSF Weill Neurosciences Building. Photo by Tim Griffith

The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is exclusively focused on the health sciences and is dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. UCSF Health, which serves as UCSF’s primary academic medical center, includes top-ranked specialty hospitals and other clinical programs, and has affiliations throughout the Bay Area.