Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have announced gifts of $4.5 million each from an alumnus of both schools in support of research on the effects of cannabis on the brain and human behavior.
The gifts from Charles R. Broderick, founder of Uji Capital LLC, a family office focused on opportunities in global equity capital markets, are the largest to date in support of independent research on the science of cannabinoids. The funding will enable experts in the fields of neuroscience and biomedicine at MIT and Harvard Medical School (HMS) to conduct research that could help unravel the biology of cannabinoids, illuminate their effects on the human brain, catalyze a variety of new treatments, and inform evidence-based clinical guidelines, societal policies, and regulation of cannabis.
In response to growing concerns over critical gaps in knowledge with respect to cannabis use for medicinal and recreational purposes, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine issued a report in 2017 calling on philanthropic organizations, private companies, public agencies, and others to develop a "comprehensive evidence base" focused on the short- and long-term health effects of cannabis use. "Our desire is to fill the research void that currently exists in the science of cannabis," said Broderick, who was an early investor in Canada's medical marijuana market.
With the gift, HMS will establish the Charles R. Broderick Phytocannabinoid Research Initiative, with a focus on basic, translational, and clinical research aimed at generating fundamental insights about the effects of cannabinoids. At MIT, the gift will support the independent research of four scientists at the McGovern and Picower Institutes over three years. Two of the researchers — John Gabrieli, the Grover Hermann Professor of Health Sciences and Technology, and Myriam Heiman, the Latham Family Career Development Associate Professor of Neuroscience at the Picower Institute — will separately explore the relationship between cannabis and schizophrenia. Gabrieli also hopes to investigate whether cannabis can have therapeutic value for autism spectrum disorders, and Heiman will explore whether it has therapeutic value against Huntington's disease.
"I want to destigmatize the conversation around cannabis — and, in part, that means providing facts to the medical community, as well as the general public," said Broderick, who argues that independent research needs to form the basis for policy discussions regardless of whether it's good for business. "Then we're all working from the same information. We need to replace rhetoric with research."
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