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Harvard Medical School and MIT See Green With High Value Donation to Fund Joint Cannabis Research

The main quad at Harvard Medical School.
The main quad at Harvard Medical School. By Krystal K. Phu
By Alexis K. Bolner, Crimson Staff Writer

A Harvard and MIT graduate who is heavily invested in the Canadian legal cannabis market donated a combined $9 million dollars to Harvard and MIT to fund neurobiology research on the plant.

The donation, given by Charles R. Broderick, is the largest independent donation ever made to fund biological study of cannabinoids on the brain and behavior. The donation will fund research on the medical uses of cannabis to create treatments and better inform societal and political attitudes towards medical cannabis. Harvard Medical School professors Bruce P. Bean ’73 and Wade G. Regehr will lead Harvard’s half of the research.

Broderick said he decided to donate the funds because he saw a dearth in cannabis-related research.

“There wasn’t as much research on cannabis from the lack of funding and social taboos around it,” Broderick said. “I realized I could take personal leadership in helping to kickstart this.”

Broderick said efforts to pass legislation related to cannabis have often been hindered because there has been little authoritative research conducted on its medical use.

“A lot of the times in the policy discussion that has been occurring around the world, there is this desire to fall back to science to help illuminate the answers, and when they would go back to illuminate the answers they were finding that there wasn't very much research,” Broderick said.

The donation was made following roughly six months of conversation between Broderick and Harvard scientists to explore what kinds of research might be stimulated by funding in this area, according to Bean.

Bean said in an interview that the goal of the donation will be to encourage new research in labs with expertise on cannabinoids, and to bring young researchers and postdoctoral fellows to this research field.

“The idea with the gift will be to call for applications from people around Harvard University who may be interested in doing research connected with cannabinoids,” he said.

Bean also said the donation is meant to facilitate collaboration between labs that may work in related fields but do not currently specifically focus on cannabinoids.

Some of the funds will be directed toward studying the use of cannabinoids to treat epilepsy. In this field, Bean works alongside professors Elizabeth A. Thiele and Gary I. Yellen ’79.

Broderick said new research on cannabinoids will help expand medical horizons.

“We have to be happy to address this lack of research as soon as we are able to,” Broderick said. “If I could help lead these two institutions to recognizing that and working on the problem, then I've got a good thing I think for all of us.”

—Staff writer Alexis K. Bolner can be reached at alexis.bolner@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @AlexisBolner.

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ResearchHarvard Medical SchoolMITDrugs