Brain Sciences


The Garfield Weston Foundation donate £5 million to world-leading neuroscience centre at UCL

21 February 2020

The state-of-the-art new building will house UCL’s renowned Queen Square Institute of Neurology and will be home to the research hub and operational headquarters of the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI).

Grays Inn North

The new headquarters represents a nationwide collaboration to revolutionise the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and vascular dementia.

The £5 million donation from The Foundation is their largest gift to UCL to date. They will be naming the Weston Conference Centre in the new building on Grays Inn Road, which will provide facilities to connect scientists and welcome visiting collaborators from across the UK and the world. It will be a crucial part of the new building which is a physical embodiment of UCL’s commitment to translational research and collaborative working to find solutions to some of society’s most devastating neurodegenerative diseases.

Philippa Charles, Director of the Garfield Weston Foundation said: “Our Trustees are delighted to support UCL in leading the global effort to tackle neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. The new building will play a critical role in the UK’s dementia effort and we hope that The Weston Conference Centre will encourage the collaborative approach needed to transform treatment and outcomes for patients and their families.”

Professor Alan Thompson, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences said: “UCL’s neuroscience community is absolutely world-leading and we pride ourselves on collaborating on a global scale to make the decisive intervention against dementia that we need. The Weston Conference Centre will provide a unique space in the new building to bring scientists together, to really accelerate the speed of dementia discovery and translation.” 

Professor Michael Hanna, Director of the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology added: “Dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases severely affect the lives of individuals and their families. There is an urgent need to find better ways to diagnose and treat people with these devastating disorders. Having the facilities that prioritise collaboration and bring together researchers, clinicians and patients that will enable us to do this is vital. The visionary support of funders like The Garfield Weston Foundation is crucial to use achieving this.”

Mr Adrian Punaks, Executive Director of Office of the Vice-Provost (Advancement) said: “We are exceptionally grateful to the Trustees for making a donation of this magnitude to this important project. Their gift will have an impact long into the future, as the new building sets us on a course to enable our scientists to bring about a revolution in the understanding and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. This project is only made possible through the generosity of UCL’s philanthropic partners and donors.”

The new building was awarded final planning permission from Camden Council on the 19 September 2019 and work is expected to start at the site in early 2020. Created on the site of the Eastman Dental Hospital, the new neuroscience centre will bring together academia, industry, the NHS, funders and patient organisations to break down barriers and find better ways to diagnose and treat people with devastating neurological disorders.

The UK DRI, launched in autumn 2017, is a £290m investment into dementia research from founding funders the Medical Research Council, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK. The iconic new home for the Institute of Neurology and the UK DRI will be part of UCL’s redevelopment of the Eastman Dental Hospital site, which will house over 500 neuroscience researchers when completed.

Established in 1958, the Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-founded charitable grant-making trust which now gives away approximately £80 million a year to charities across the UK. Having established one of the most respected charitable institutions in the UK, the Weston Family Trustees today remain highly active and hands-on. The Foundation’s funding comes from an endowment of shares in the family business – a successful model that still endures today and as the businesses have grown so too have the charitable donations.

Each year the Foundation gives away its income and donations have continued to grow. Since it was established it has donated over £1 billion, of which over half has been given away in the past ten years alone. In the most recent financial year the Foundation gave away over £79 million to over 2,100 charities across the UK.

This announcement coincides with an exciting UCL-led study published today. In this study, UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology researchers used a cutting-edge MRI technique to detect iron deposits in different brain regions, tracking declines in thinking, memory and movement in people with Parkinson’s disease.