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Brain Trust: The Gatsby Charitable Foundation

David Sainsburry

David Sainsburry

What happens when three famous names—Salk, Sainsbury and Gatsby—come together? The answer: a significant boost to cutting-edge neuroscience research.

David Sainsbury is the great-grandson of the couple who founded the well-known British supermarket chain that bears his surname. A successful business magnate, Labor peer, former UK Minister of Science and Innovation recently elected Cambridge University Chan- cellor, Lord Sainsbury of Turville, as he is also known, is equally renowned for his dedication to the arts, science and social causes. In 1967, just four years after graduating from King's College, Cambridge, he founded the Gatsby Charitable Foundation (named as a wry reference to F. Scott Fitzgerald's hedonistic hero), whose first grant was a modest £50 to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

Since then, the foundation has generously supported exciting projects around the world, principally in plant science research, neuroscience research, science and engineering education, economic development in Africa, public policy research and advice and the arts.

In 2010, Dr. Sarah Caddick, a former scientist who serves as Sainsbury's Senior Advisor in neuroscience, identified one of those projects in California. As part of its goal to invest in research programs around the world in the field of neural circuits and behavior, the Foundation made a $4 million grant to establish the California Circuits Consortium. The consortium, including Salk's Edward Callaway and John Reynolds, along with research teams from the University of California, San Diego, and Stanford University, was created to study neuronal circuits underlying higher brain function. As with other projects it its portfolio, it will complement the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behavior which is currently being built at University College London and will open in 2014.

The grant reflects Sainsbury's lifelong interest in cognitive neuroscience, which is stronger than ever, he has said, "now that we have the opportunity to bring together the behavioral side of brain science with advances in physiology and molecular biology to start asking how neural circuits really work."

An enduring interest in neuroscience is something Sainsbury has in common with the Salk Institute, which sponsored the first neuroscience meeting on the Torrey Pines mesa in 1964 and is now one of the world's most influential centers for neuroscience research.

The Gatsby Foundation grant is extending the Salk Institute's long tradition of leadership in the field, as well as its scientists' penchant for collaboration.

"The grant from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation creates a tremendous opportunity to work more closely together than ever before," says Callaway. "It allows us to capitalize on the unique strengths we have as a team."