Andrew and Barbara Taylor and the Crawford Taylor Foundation, the charity of the entire Jack C. Taylor family, have committed $20 million to the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis to advance the science underlying the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric illnesses. The gift was announced as university leaders launched Leading Together: The Campaign for Washington University, a historic effort to enhance Washington University’s leadership here and abroad.
“Barbara, our family, and I believe it is important to take a public position in supporting the science that holds great hope for many individuals and their families,” says Andy Taylor, chair of the Leading Together campaign and chief executive officer of Enterprise Holdings, the St. Louis-based company that operates the Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car brands. “Our investment in this campaign reflects our confidence in the leadership of Dr. Charles Zorumski, head of the Department of Psychiatry, as well as our appreciation of adjunct professor Dr. Luis Giuffra, who deepened our understanding of the great need for this effort.”
The gift will fund the Taylor Family Institute for Innovative Psychiatric Research, a center focused on developing new and more effective therapies for psychiatric disorders. Although current medications are helpful, many have major limitations in terms of their effectiveness and potential side effects. And often, psychiatric drugs do not target the fundamental mechanisms in the brain that contribute to illness.
“Washington University has long had a strong Department of Psychiatry, with an outstanding record of research, education and patient care,” says Washington University Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “The wonderful gift provided by the Taylor family will provide resources to advance innovative approaches to addressing psychiatric illnesses. Such illnesses affect the lives of many people, their families and their friends. We are very grateful for the transformative gift the Taylors have provided, which will bring enormous benefit to many.”
“This gift honors the historical leadership of Washington University in the field of biological psychiatry and launches the department into the future,” says Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “The School of Medicine was among the first to define mental illness as a disease and not a character flaw, and to study it the same way we investigate cancer or heart disease. The beneficiaries of this gift ultimately will be the generations of patients who will lead more productive lives as a result of what we learn.”
The Taylor Family Institute
Scientists at the Taylor Family Institute for Innovative Psychiatric Research initially will focus their attention on neurosteroids, chemicals in the brain that are involved in regulating cognition, emotion and motivation. Changes in neurosteroid levels can be associated with mood disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, alcoholism, sleep disorders, chronic pain, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The institute also will help to drive laboratory and clinical research at Washington University focused on new treatment development in psychiatry, and will involve collaborations among several departments, including psychiatry, anesthesiology, developmental biology, radiology and neurology.
The core faculty members in the institute have been conducting research on natural and synthetic neurosteroid molecules for several years, investigating those substances as potential anesthetic agents as well as possible treatments for psychiatric illnesses. Investigators involved in the institute have expertise in chemical synthesis, molecular biochemistry, ion channel biology, cellular and synaptic neurobiology and behavioral testing in animal models of illness.
Current evidence suggests that the production of neurosteroids in the brain is affected by stress and by particular disorders such as depression. Institute scientists believe that replacing or enhancing these depleted steroids may be effective in alleviating altered stress responses in order to help the brain function more normally.
The institute’s first director will be Charles F. Zorumski, MD, the Samuel B. Guze Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobiology and head of the Department of Psychiatry.
“The Taylors’ gift will do incredible things for the field of psychiatry,” he says. “Resources of this magnitude will allow us to pursue the development of new therapies to benefit patients who struggle with psychiatric illnesses. We believe this support will help us to capitalize on existing scientific and clinical expertise at Washington University to develop innovative and more effective treatments.”
The Taylor family’s donation also will be used to set up endowments that will continue to fund cutting-edge brain research for years to come. Modern neuroscience and genetics are providing new insights into brain mechanisms underlying psychiatric illness. Advances have been made in the understanding of changes in brain circuitry that contribute to multiple illnesses, but despite that progress, there have been few advances in bringing new and more effective treatments to market.
The last types of psychiatric drugs developed were selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), for treating depression, and new-generation antipsychotic medications for illnesses such as schizophrenia. Although those drugs tend to have improved side effects compared to older medications, they target the same systems in the brain as the psychiatric drugs that were available in the 1950s and 1960s. Research at the institute will attempt to identify new targets for therapy.
Up to 30 percent of adults in the United States suffer from a psychiatric illness at some point in their lives, and those illnesses account for more than 40 percent of all disabilities. Although heart and lung disease, stroke and cancer are obvious causes of death, it is less appreciated that those end-stage illnesses often are related to alcoholism, nicotine dependence, drug abuse and other psychiatric problems.
Deaths from motor vehicle accidents and violence often are associated with psychiatric illnesses, particularly alcohol abuse. And suicide, which takes the lives of more than 30,000 people each year in the United States, almost always involves major psychiatric illnesses such as depression and substance abuse.
About the Taylor Family and the Crawford Taylor Foundation
There is a strong legacy of support to Washington University from the Taylor family and Enterprise Holdings, with contributions (including this latest gift) totaling more than $70 million. Andy Taylor, chairman and chief executive officer of Enterprise Holdings, is a Washington University trustee. He became chief executive officer of Enterprise Rent-A-Car in 1991 and was named chairman in 2001. Enterprise, founded in St. Louis in 1957 by Andy Taylor’s father, Jack Taylor, is now called Enterprise Holdings and is the most comprehensive service provider and only investment-grade company in the U.S. car rental industry.
Andy Taylor's numerous community involvements include serving as a trustee of the Naval Aviation History Foundation and a life trustee of the Missouri Botanical Garden. His wife, Barbara Taylor, also is an advocate for the region. She is on the Board of Commissioners of the Saint Louis Art Museum, and is a trustee and member of the Executive Committee of Forest Park Forever.
The Crawford Taylor Foundation, managed by Jo Ann Taylor Kindle, is committed to enabling and enhancing programs that create lasting legacies within St. Louis. The foundation funds community development programs that enhance St. Louis’s reputation nationally and internationally. It also funds programs that assist women and youth, from basic food and shelter to health and education. Animal welfare groups whose efforts focus on rescue and rehabilitation of animals, as well as the prevention of cruelty are another priority for the foundation. It also supports the preservation of parks and places of natural beauty, along with education and development of long-term environmental solutions.
October 6, 2012