$10.75 million gift funds depression research at U-M


A transformative donation of $10.75 million to the University of Michigan Depression Center will help accelerate development of personalized treatments that are necessary to conquer clinical depression, bipolar disorder and related illnesses.

The gift comes from U-M alumni Frances and Kenneth Eisenberg and family of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

For more than 15 years, Depression Center researchers have worked collaboratively to make key discoveries and test innovative treatment options for depression and bipolar illnesses, among the world’s most disabling conditions. The Eisenberg gift will enhance those efforts.

The Depression Center was the world’s first comprehensive center established to fight depression and associated stigma on all fronts. It has helped inspire the creation of 32 additional depression centers across the United States and Canada, creating an international network to accelerate progress.

The Eisenberg family hopes that its support for work at U-M will further change the paradigm for how depression and bipolar disorder are understood and treated.

“It is time to put our energy and resources into finding solutions for depression. Everyone has been touched by a loved one or friend affected by mental illness. Our family’s goal is to remove the stigma associated with this disease and to provide the necessary financial support to assure that meaningful treatment is accessible,” said Kenneth Eisenberg.  

He adds, “Together, we must facilitate increased public awareness so that those who suffer from depression will be able to regenerate their identity, their work and their creativity to not only survive, but to thrive in a world that seeks to understand and support their struggle. In collaboration with our team at the University of Michigan Depression Center, we will find solutions. While this undertaking is daunting, it is my family’s privilege to provide this initial investment to incentivize others to join in the struggle for improved mental health.”

He has worked directly with Depression Center founder and Executive Director Dr. John Greden, the Rachel Upjohn Professor of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences at the Medical School, to shape the gift so it helps guide research toward breakthrough understandings of causes, personalized treatments and preventive strategies.

The gift will:

• Expand the number of innovative research projects focused on understanding causes of depression and develop personalized, precise treatments that target each individual’s unique genomic, stress and medical profile.

• Fund the Frances and Kenneth Eisenberg Professorship of Depression and Neurosciences, approved Thursday by the Board of Regents and awarded to psychiatrist Dr. Srijan Sen.

Sen is a leading expert in the biology of stress and depression, and already holds the title of Frances and Kenneth Eisenberg Emerging Scholar at U-M’s Taubman Medical Research Institute. He leads the national Intern Health Study, a project that is tracking more than 13,000 training physicians across the country as they transition into the highly stressful intern year. His work has furthered understanding of the links between stress and depression and helped to identify different genes and other biological factors involved.

• Create the Eisenberg Collaborative Innovations Fund to support community outreach and partnerships between the Depression Center and units at U-M such as the Frankel Cardiovascular Center and the Comprehensive Cancer Center. It will also expand alliances with the National Network of Depression Centers, community health centers and private companies to develop technology-based approaches for depression care and research.

• Establish the Frances and Kenneth Eisenberg Emerging Scholar Award for early career research, and the Frances and Kenneth Eisenberg Research Prize, a national award to be given to an outstanding leader in the field.

• Build an endowment to sustain future research.

“We are so grateful for the generosity of the Eisenberg family and applaud their leadership and vision,” said Dr. Gregory Dalack, chair of the Department of Psychiatry. “Their gift will help us advance the science and treatment of these debilitating illnesses and combat the ignorance and stigma that prevent so many from seeking help.”

“We’ve come remarkably far in the last 15 years — in science, clinical delivery, and as a society, but there’s so much more we must do,” said Greden. “Magnanimous donors like Frances and Kenneth Eisenberg and their family are catalysts to getting there. This is a huge step. We will conquer these illnesses.”

Dr. Marschall Runge, executive vice president for medical affairs, welcomes the Eisenberg gift as the latest show of support for the U-M Health System’s approach to blending research, advanced clinical care, education and community outreach. The donation brings the Health System closer to its $1 billion goal under the university’s $4 billion Victors for Michigan campaign.

“Our neuroscientists, mental health geneticists, health services researchers, clinical trial leaders and clinical faculty and staff know that by working together, they can make progress that will help our own patients and people worldwide who suffer from depressive disorders,” said Runge. “Donor funding increases our impact exponentially.”


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