Project Start Date
More than 1 million Americans are diagnosed with a chronic brain disorder each year, yet effective treatments for most complex brain disorders are inadequate or even nonexistent. A major new research effort at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT aims to change how we treat brain disorders by developing innovative molecular tools that precisely target dysfunctional genetic, molecular, and circuit pathways.
The K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Center for Molecular Therapeutics in Neuroscience was established at MIT through a $28 million gift from philanthropist Lisa Yang and MIT alumnus Hock Tan (1975). Yang is a former investment banker who has devoted much of her time to advocacy for individuals with disabilities and autism spectrum disorders. Tan is president and CEO of Broadcom, a global technology infrastructure company. This latest gift brings Yang and Tan’s total philanthropy to MIT to more than $72 million.
Research at the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Center for Molecular Therapeutics in Neuroscience will initially focus on three major lines of investigation: genetic engineering using CRISPR tools, delivery of genetic and molecular cargo across the blood-brain barrier, and the translation of basic research into the clinical setting. The center will serve as a hub for researchers with backgrounds ranging from biological engineering and genetics to computer science and medicine.
Researchers within the new Yang-Tan Center will improve and fine-tune CRISPR gene therapies and develop innovative ways of delivering gene therapy cargo into the brain and other organs. In addition, the center will leverage newly developed single-cell analysis technologies that are revealing cellular targets for modulating brain functions with unprecedented precision, opening the door for noninvasive neuromodulation as well as the development of medicines. The center will also focus on developing novel engineering approaches to delivering small molecules and proteins from the bloodstream into the brain. Desimone will direct the center and some of the initial research initiatives will be led by associate professor of materials science and engineering Polina Anikeeva; Ed Boyden, the Y. Eva Tan Professor in Neurotechnology at MIT; Guoping Feng, the James W. (1963) and Patricia T. Poitras Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT; and Feng Zhang, James and Patricia Poitras Professor of Neuroscience at MIT.
Center funding will also be earmarked to create the Y. Eva Tan Fellows program, named for Tan and Yang’s daughter Eva, which will support fellowships for young neuroscientists and engineers eager to design revolutionary treatments for human diseases.