Bernie Brain Drain: $1 Billion Neuro Research Foundation Forced Shut

Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme will not only havedestroyed fortunes–it will also have destroyed lives.

Yesterday, the Ponzi scheme closed another foundation, The Picower Foundation of Palm Beach, which over the years has given nearly $270 million for such things as funding brain research at MIT and diabetes research at Harvard. It is one of the largest foundations in the country, and the largest, so far, to be taken down by Bernie Madoff. The Foundation had assets of $1 billion, which he managed.

Boston.com: “It is with great sadness that I write to inform you that the Picower Foundation has ceased all grant-making, effective immediately, and will close its doors in the coming months,” wrote Barbara Picower [in a letter to donors], the foundation’s president, who added that its money was managed by Madoff.

…A portrait of the Picowers hangs in the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT. They gave the centre $50 million in 2002, which was, at the time, the largest grant from a single foundation the university had ever received. The foundation gave MIT another $4 million in May to launch a fund for faculty to conduct high-risk neuroscience research activities.

It is unclear from the foundation’s statement whether it lost all its money or just enough to force it to cease operations.

“I am deeply saddened by the terrible news,” Susumu Tonegawa, the Nobel laureate for medicine who founded the centre in 1994, said in an e-mail.

….The Picower Foundation also awarded $1.5 million for diabetes and metabolism research to Dr. Jeffrey Flier, dean of Harvard Medical School. Flier said he had a premonition Monday that the foundation was in trouble. He and other scientists associated with the research were due to go to New York to present their results to one another and Barbara Picower. But on the way to New York, they received an mail from Barbara Picower saying she couldn’t attend the meeting.

“This was surprising because the date of the meeting was organised around her schedule,” Flier said. “The first immediate thought I had was: ‘Oh, God. This is going to relate to the Madoff story.’ “

His research funded by the foundation “is over,” he said, unless he finds another funder.

 

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