Senator Jay Rockefeller announced today a gift of $15 million from his family to the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute (BRNI) research facility located at West Virginia University. The Institute was launched by Senator Rockefeller in December 1999 and named after his mother, Blanchette Ferry Rockefeller, who died of Alzheimers disease in 1992. The gift represents the largest single donation to the Institute.

The $15 million endowment to BRNI represents a combined gift from Senator Rockefeller and his wife Sharon, his sisters Sandra Ferry, Hope Aldrich, and Alida Messinger, and his uncles Laurance Rockefeller and David Rockefeller, Sr.

“The mission of the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute is of tremendous personal importance to me, my family and my State,”Senator Rockefeller said.”The battle against debilitating neurological disorders is fought by people of all ages, all colors, all economic backgrounds. It is the hope of my family that the work being done at the Institute will lead to new discoveries, and a better quality of life for West Virginians and people around the world. I believe West Virginia is poised to become a global leader in neuroscience research.”

“This state has benefitted from the hard work of Jay Rockefeller for nearly 40 years,”said WVU President and BRNI board member David C. Hardesty Jr.”He has championed many causes for his state and nation, but his greatest gift may be his commitment to health careespecially the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute. He and his family are truly making a difference in West Virginia and throughout the world.”

Hardesty noted that Rockefeller launched the Institute in 1999 for deeply personal reasons.”He explained at the time that after watching his mother suffer from the agony of Alzheimers disease, he became determined to help spare others from that illness and others like it. No one familiar with Senator Rockefeller and his background could be surprised that from a family tragedy would spring an effort to help millions of people in this state and around the world.”

Vice President for Health Sciences and Dean of the School of Medicine Robert DAlessandri added,”This contribution by Senator Rockefeller and his family is truly a gift to people everywhere. The Senator has distinguished himself through his steadfast leadership in the entire field of health care. The Rockefeller family’s support for the work and mission of the Institute is a great testament to the memory of Blanchette Rockefeller, and evidence of this great American family’s strong and continuing commitment to public service.”

The Blanchette Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute is headquartered on the campus of West Virginia University, and is a non-profit international medical research center focused on human memory and the development of new medications and diagnostics to treat neurological and cognitive disorders. It is the largest basic science research venture in West Virginia history, and the only major institute focusing on human memory in the world.

“This generous gift from the Rockefeller family represents a major step forward for the Institute,”said Ernest Villafranca, PhD, Institute CEO and Executive Director.”This founding endowment will accelerate our progress toward building a state-of-the-art global resource for neurosciences research and neurological therapeutics development. We are extremely grateful to Senator Rockefeller and his family for their vision and support.”

In addition to the research center at West Virginia University in Morgantown, the Institute also has a partnership with Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.

Leadership of the Institute is provided by a Board of Directors, under the founding chairmanship of Senator Rockefeller. Board Members include, Dr. Harold Varmus, CEO of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and Dr. Chuck Vest, President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Scientific leadership is provided by a Scientific Advisory Board and the Institute’s Scientific Director. Anne B. Young, MD, PhD, serves as Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board. Dr. Young is the Julieanne Dorn Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and Chief of the Neurology Service at Massachusetts General Hospital. Eleven other internationally recognized neuroscientists comprise the SAB , including two Nobel LaureatesDr. Julius Axelrod and Dr. Marshall Nirenberg, both of the National Institutes of Health. Daniel Alkon, MD, serves as Scientific Director, following 30 years with the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Alkon is an internationally recognized authority in the basic science of learning and memory and also serves as Director of the Institute’s Base Research Program in memory and memory disorders.