Billionaire-Backed Brain Research Center Breaks Ground at Caltech



6:45 am | December 6, 2017


Some of the world’s leading scientists, Caltech community members, city officials and a philanthropist couple who made the day possible with their donation celebrated the groundbreaking of the institution’s $200 million Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Neuroscience Research Building.

Funded by Chinese billionaires Tianqiao Chen and Chrissy Lou, the neuroscience institute will serve as the nexus for neuroscience research at Caltech where it will bring together an interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers to investigate one of today’s greatest challenges in understanding the brain and how it works — as well as why and how it fails as a result of disease or through the aging process.

“Today’s groundbreaking at Caltech is an exhilarating milestone for us,” said Tianqiao Chen, co-founder of The Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute, which has committed $1 billion to brain research. This complex is the first in a series of brain initiatives the Chens are supporting.

“We are driven by a fierce passion and a long-term commitment to uncover the mysteries of the human brain, which can ultimately improve the human experience. It’s a long-term vision that requires a conducive environment to support and stimulate unconventional thinking,” Chen added.

The Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute was established in 2016 at Caltech with a gift of $115 million from philanthropists Tianqiao Chen and Chrissy Luo, who are using their wealth to partner with world-leading universities and research institutions to transform fundamental understanding of the brain and how cognition and perception are formed.

“We are delighted to hit this milestone in our partnership with Caltech. It’s been a year since we announced this collaboration and much progress has been made, and now we can begin the next chapter in the Institute’s formation,” said Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute co-founder Chrissy Lou.

The complex will be the administrative home of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience, reflecting its mission to promote brain research focused on three areas—brain discovery, treatment and development.

Construction of the 150,000 square feet complex will begin in January, 2018, and is expected to be completed in late summer of 2020.

“The Chen Institute for Neuroscience at Caltech will let us do something special because we are now bringing individual talents together to transform the study of the brain,” said Caltech President Dr. Thomas Rosenbaum. “Together, the Chens and Caltech have identified this as a major area of investment, and together we will establish a partnership that will change the world,” Rosenbaum added.

The three-story structure will have state-of-the-art facilities, housing more than 15 research labs.

The building is designed to facilitate campus-wide collaboration, with shared labs and centralized activity areas serving scientists, engineers and researchers on interdisciplinary research.

“We move from a period where neuroscience was sometimes viewed by some of my colleagues as a fringe activity–somewhat outside the mainstream of Caltech research — to one in which it has the potential to become an epicenter for interdisciplinary science across campus,” said Chen Institute Director David Anderson.

According to a press release, the Chens’ gift dovetailed perfectly with a key Caltech initiative: to apply Caltech’s unique interdisciplinary and computational strengths to the study of the brain, with a particular focus on what these approaches can reveal about the brain’s biology, chemistry, and even its engineering, as well as about human emotion and behavior.

“It is here where more truth will be uncovered,” said Chen.

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