Picower Institute for Learning and Memory
The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory is, along with the McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, one of the three neuroscience groups at MIT. The institute is focused on studying all aspects of learning and memory; specifically, it has received over US$50 million to study Alzheimer's, schizophrenia and similar diseases.
When it was established in 1994, the institute was primarily funded by the Sherman Fairchild Foundation, the RIKEN Brain Science Institute and the National Institute of Mental Health. It was renamed after a massive $50 million grant by the Picower Foundation in 2002. The Picower Foundation wealth was later found to have come mostly from Bernard Madoff's ponzi scheme, which stole billions of dollars from thousands of small Madoff investors and paid it out to Madoff insiders like Jeffry Picower as lavish, but totally fictitious, returns.
Following Jeffry Picower's death in 2009 and subsequent 7.2 billion settlement of his estate with Madoff Trustee his remaining assets are funding a new Picower (charity) foundation, called 'The JPB Foundation', which like the old Picower foundation is run by Barbara Picower and April Freilich, Jeffry Picower's long time business associate. In its first year of operation, 2011, it was funded solely by a 100 million dollar gift from Jeffry Picower's estate, and its grants of 57 million that year ranked it among the top 100 United States foundations by gift amount.
According to public records nearly half of The JPB Foundation's first year grant dollars went to MIT; 25 million for support of the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory (in accordance with a provision in Jeffry Picower's will), an additional 2 million to support the Picower Institute Innovation fund, and about ½ million to the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research adjacent to the MIT campus and associated with MIT.
On July 1, 2009, Professor Li-Huei Tsai became the director of the Picower Institute. The institute was directed by founder and Nobel Prize laureate Susumu Tonegawa until he resigned on December 31, 2006, motivated by his belief that “a new generation of leadership is needed.”
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