Who’s the Unexpected Private Donor Pooling Support for Neurologic Disease Research?

Whatever your opinion of her husband, you have to admit Ann Romney is doing something admirable here.

After more than 15 years suffering from multiple sclerosis herself, she’s stepping up and helping Brigham and Women’s Hospital launch a $50 million fundraising campaign to establish the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases. She didn’t disclose the size of her contribution, but we figure to get naming rights, it must be substantial. (Side note: We'd bet keeping the exact sum a mystery is a good way to get more and bigger donations from outside. No one wants to see a shortfall, so our guess is they’re more likely to overspend as a result.)

Related: The Google Fortune Behind the Michael J. Fox Foundation

Romney’s inspiration for the gift seems to derive from the intersection of her own personal history with MS and the publicity experience she gained while accompanying her husband Mitt on the campaign trail. People with MS were coming out to see her, just to show their support. “These faces are forever with me,” she told the Boston Globe. “I want to give them more hope.” She asked her doctor, Howard Weiner, who works at Brigham and Women’s, what would happen if isolated researchers working on neurologic diseases came together to collaborate?

This is a trend we’re seeing more and more of in this realm: Alzheimer’s scientists teaming up with researchers studying MS, ALS, Parkinson’s, and brain tumors, and looking for overlap. Earlier this year, we reported on a Michael J. Fox Foundation-funded initiative to test popular Alzheimer’s drug SYN120 on Parkinson’s patients; Weiner himself has seen how MS research can lead to breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s treatment. In a lot of ways, cross-pollinating neurologic disease studies makes good sense.

The benefits of receiving the funding and a bit of limelight from Romney are pretty clear: First, the gift will enable Brigham & Women’s to hire fifty additional scientists. Second, centralizing research on neurologic diseases means that attracting more private and federal funding will be easier, giving scientists the confidence to hunker down and chase breakthroughs.

Romney admits that her own gift is only a drop in the bucket, but it’s certainly something. We can only hope it’ll lead to an outpouring of support from many of the same folks who bankrolled Mitt’s run for the White House.