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University of Auckland

Auckland, New Zealand

$5 million gift supports brain research

21 Dec 2018

Auckland businessman and philanthropist Sir David Levene is giving the University of Auckland an early Christmas gift - $5 million to support brain research.

University of Auckland

Sir Richard Faull and Sir David Levene with Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon

Sir David, a property developer and known as the founder of popular homewares store Levene, is donating through the University’s ‘For All Our Futures’ fundraising campaign to establish the first-ever endowed Chair in Brain Research at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. It will be called the David Levene Foundation Chair in Brain Research.

Sir David says he was inspired to make the gift after seeing friends and family suffer from the challenges of brain disease such as Parkinson’s, dementia and motor neuron disease.

“My late wife Billie suffered from Parkinson’s and I have friends whose better halves suffer from dementia. Aging is not easy, so if we can research ways to prevent and treat brain disease to ease suffering that can only be a good thing,” he says.

Sir David says he also wants to encourage others to support the world-class research being conducted at the University of Auckland’s Centre for Brain Research, led by well-known neuroscientist Distinguished Professor Sir Richard Faull.

“A lifetime of wonderful work by Sir Richard Faull needs to be continued and developed, and we hope this donation from the David Levene Foundation will make that possible.”

"Sir David has shown significant foresight in investing in the future of brain research." 

Sir Richard Faull

Sir Richard Faull, whose relationship with Sir David and his brother-in-law Sir Graeme Douglas, dates back to their common school roots at New Plymouth Boys High, says the group has been united in their long-term support of the Centre for Brain Research.

“Sir David has shown significant foresight in investing in the future of brain research. It is vital that we continue to develop new therapies and treatments for brain disease, and give hope to the one in five people in New Zealand who are affected by brain disorders.

“This generous gift will enable the Centre for Brain Research to continue to develop innovative and imaginative world-class research.”

Understanding the brain is one of the last frontiers of medical research and one of the most challenging areas in medicine. The Centre for Brain Research is at the leading edge of brain research internationally. Its notable breakthroughs include the discovery that the human brain can produce new brain cells throughout life.

The Centre is also home to the Neurological Foundation Human Brain Bank, one of the most extensive collections of human brain tissue in the Southern Hemisphere. Associated research provides vital clues to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, motor neuron disease, epilepsy and schizophrenia.

University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, says this large donation continues more than 20 years of support from Sir David, who gave his first donation to the University in 1997 for scholarships for disadvantaged students.

“While the way we diagnose and treat brain disease may well change in the future, Sir David’s wonderful gift will continue to help people with neurological diseases and conditions in perpetuity.

“Endowed gifts like this support research for the long-term. We are enormously grateful to be able to work towards outcomes that will have a positive impact on the world and that are possible thanks to the generosity of the David Levene Foundation.”

See an interview with Professor Richard Faull about the Centre for Brain Research in the New Zealand Herald.

About the Centre for Brain Research

The University of Auckland’s Centre for Brain Research is a unique partnership between scientists, clinicians and the community. Established in 2009, by Sir Richard Faull, the Centre excels in world-class neuroscience research carried out by cross-faculty research teams, alongside clinical collaborations with leading neurologists, neurosurgeons and physicians in New Zealand and around the world.

Scientists, doctors and students work at every level, from the laboratory to the clinic to the whānau and community. By working together the CBR aims to provide a brighter future for people and families affected by brain disease. Read more about the Centre for Brain Research.

About the University of Auckland fundraising campaign - For All Our Futures

Through this campaign, the University aims to address, with philanthropic help, some of the key issues facing New Zealand and the world.

‘Can we unlock the secrets of the brain?’ is one of the key questions the University of Auckland seeks to address.

Publicly launched in September 2016, the campaign has a target of $300 million to support multiple projects, including in the areas of cancer research, innovation and entrepreneurship, online STEM subject education, and scholarships for students. Read more about the campaign.

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