Three Things to Know about the Dana Foundation

This is shaping up to be a big year for the Manhattan-based Dana Foundation. It redesigned its website earlier this year, and it’s getting ready to announce a new batch of recipients in both its Clinical Neuroscience Research program and its David Mahoney Neuroimaging Program.

Here are a few things to know about this funder. 

It's all about the brain

The Dana Foundation is all about the brain. Though the Dana Foundation began as an arts, education and cancer philanthropy in the 1950s, in 1985 it shifted its priorities to focus on neurology. Interestingly, while the Dana Foundation continues to give to the causes they were founded on (supporting the Dana-Farber Cancer Research Institute, and supporting academic scholarships and professorships at colleges around the country) the Dana Foundation’s new website is all about the brain. Moving forward, that’s where we expect its priorities to be. Seems arts and education are has-been causes at the foundation, and though it will continue to fulfill any historic funding commitments it made in its past, we don’t expect to see any new ones.

Related: Dana Foundation: Grants for Brain Research and Treatment

It's less daring than it used to be

When the Dana Foundation redesigned its website, it assumed a more conservative tone. In the past, the Dana Foundation sought out “off the beaten path” and “innovative” approaches to brain research; now it has refocused its mission slightly, leaning away from the edge—and perhaps, toward more conservative science—as it presses forward into 2014. It still wants “pilot tests of novel hypotheses,” but it wants these hypotheses to be founded on proven factual science, not supposition. 

But sleeker, too

In the 1990s, interdisciplinary initiatives, advocacy materials, and outreach items proliferated at the foundation. It launched a public radio series called Gray Matters. It hosted the Consortium on Therapy for HIV Dementia. It launched Brain Awareness Week. It started a publishing press, a news office, and a journal called Cerebrum. And in 2010, it pulled the plug.

It closed its DC office and moved to Manhattan, and stopped putting out trade publications. In the early 2000s, Dana’s interest in progressively more and more rigorous areas of brain science had expanded rapidly. It was getting away from advocacy and into neuroimaging, neuroimmunology, you name it. And moving forward, it seems like that’s precisely the direction it’s going to continue to head.