Penn receives $16 million gift to study biology behind behavior

    The University of Pennsylvania just got a nice holiday gift: an anonymous donation of more than $16 million. The university will use the money to launch a new initiative studying the underlying biology of behavioral disorders.

    The money will be invested to study three areas: Addiction, depressive disorders, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The dollars will be spent on hiring leading scientists in these fields, and to do interdisciplinary research.

    Dr. Brian Strom, a professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, will lead the project.

    He says all three disorder areas affect a lot of people, have behavioral symptoms, but are understood to be biological in origin.

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    “The question is understanding biologically what causes them, the basic neuroscience, to potentially developing new drugs to treat them,” explained Strom.

    Strom says along with learning the causes for these disorders, researchers will look at who is at risk for these disorders. He says the university is looking to hire a group of top-notch experts in diverse fields: “Part of the goal here is to get people in different area of science to work together on common problems.”

    The anonymous donor is expected to make other major gifts to this initiative down the road.

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