Philanthropist donates millions to psychiatric research

Ted Stanley, whose son struggled with bipolar disorder, this week gave $650 million to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard to do research on the genetics of mental illness, according to WBUR Boston.

It was the largest gift ever received for psychiatric research.

Stanley, 83, founded The Danbury Mint, which originally sold commemorative medals. He came to understand the importance of psychiatric treatment after witnessing his son Jonathan’s battle with bipolar disorder when he was 19. Jonathan responded well to treatment, but Stanley knows many people with similar disorders are not so fortunate.

When he announced the gift, Broad’s founder and chairman Eric Lander referred to a new scientific paper published in the journal Nature that found over 100 sites in the human genome that appear to be linked to schizophrenia. Broad researchers contributed to the study.

From WBUR, Boston’s NPR station:

Institute founding director Eric Lander wants to begin using Ted Stanley’s money to catalog all the genetic variations that contribute to severe psychiatric disorders. He said the Broad Institute has already collected the DNA from 116,000 psychiatric patients.

“Once you have the specific genes,” Lander said, “you can then accelerate the biological study of how they function together in pathways. That’s the really important step, and that’s the key next step.”

Large-scale, systematic scientific research is difficult to do when you don’t know when more grant money will come through.

Stanley’s son responded well to lithium when he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychosis. He went on to college and law school and told WBUR that he approves of his father’s decision to use his fortune in that way.

Reach Molly Duerig at 724-799-4098 or at mollyduerig@gmail.com.