Sunday 25 August 2019

US billionaire pledges €138m to Trinity College to fight Dementia

Billionaire Chuck Feeney, founder of Atlantic Philanthropies
Billionaire Chuck Feeney, founder of Atlantic Philanthropies

David Kearns

An American billionaire has made the largest philanthropic donation in Irish history by giving €138 million to Trinity College to help fund research into a cure for dementia.

A major new research centre aimed at tackling the looming dementia epidemic is to be launched later today by Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Trinity College Dublin during a live link-up with the University of California.

Researchers at both universities will work together over the next 15 years to train some 600 new experts in the area of dementia as well work on changing attitudes and public policy towards the disease.

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Affecting more than 48 million people around the world, 50,000 in Ireland, dementia is fast becoming a major health challenge, with the numbers suffering from it expected to double every 20 years.

Chuck Feeney, who heads Atlantic Philanthropies, announced plans to give €138.4 million towards the establishment of this centre, dubbed the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI), Monday evening.

The donation will fund two programmes at the institute, a two-year ‘Fellows’ scheme where participants will receive hands-on experience in diagnosis, treatment and long-term management of patients with cognitive disorders, as well as elderly people who are at risk for brain health disorders.

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“Our goal is to create a generation of leaders around the world who have the knowledge, skills and drive to change both the practice of dementia care and the public health and societal forces that affect brain health,” said Christopher G. Oechsli, president and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies.

“By doing so, we hope to reduce dramatically the number of older people who develop this disease, which affects disproportionally those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, and consumes not just the millions directly afflicted, but their families and caregivers as well.”

Also available at the new institute will be a one-year ‘Scholars’ programme for people from “all types of environments”.

“We want to train leaders, not just in medicine and public policy, but also social science, journalism, law, business and the arts, who can teach others about the preventable causes of cognitive impairment, which disproportionately affect the poor,” said UCSF’s Professor Bruce Miller ahead of the projects launch.

“That way, we can help change the course of this disease and protect vulnerable people around the world.”

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Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Kenny said: "The Atlantic Philanthropies’ support over the last 20 years for research in the biomedical area has enabled Trinity College to become a recognised leader in ageing research.

“This, however, forms only a part of Chuck Feeney's educational and research legacy in this country for which we are very grateful. 

“The Government’s vision is to make Ireland the ‘best country in which to grow old’ and we are delighted that Ireland is a part of this ambitious global initiative."

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