The University of Florida and UF Health have received a $20 million gift from the Lauren and Lee Fixel Family Foundation that will be used to establish the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at UF Health, an institute focused on advancing research, technological innovation and clinical care for Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Lewy body, ALS, dystonia and concussions.
The Fixel Family’s gift will be matched dollar for dollar by UF. The total $40 million funding package will catalyze a $100 million capital campaign to provide additional resources for scientists and doctors working to advance treatments of neurological disorders at the institute.
“We have amazing faculty dedicated to Parkinson’s and other neurologic diseases. One of the primary goals of this gift is to attract additional world-class physicians, scientists and academicians who together can make an even bigger impact,” said Michael S. Okun, M.D., a professor and chair of the department of neurology and executive director of the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at UF Health.
Okun said initial plans are to recruit an additional five faculty members, along with their related programs, all focused on neurodegenerative diseases. In addition, the newly created Fixel Scholars Endowment will be used to support fellowship and postdoctoral researchers, all with a primary focus on Parkinson’s.
“UF Health has made major investments that support neurodegenerative disease research. This gift enables UF to rapidly double down in the area of Parkinson’s disease,” said Todd Golde, M.D., executive director of the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida.
“Given similarities between Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders, these new recruits will enhance and complement our strong existing research programs in Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, dystonia, brain injury and brain aging,” Golde said.
The Fixels’ commitment to UF Health is in addition to prior contributions of more than $4 million to a clinical care building under construction in Gainesville that will house the newly created institute. In recognition of their generosity, the University of Florida Board of Trustees in December renamed the Fixel Center for Neurological Diseases to the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at UF Health in honor of Lee’s father, Norman, who earned a UF bachelor’s degree in business in 1975. Lauren is also a UF graduate, with a 2007 bachelor’s degree in journalism.
“As people live longer, Parkinson’s disease is rapidly becoming a critical health issue, with more than 1 million Americans expected to be living with the disease by next year. We believe it is essential to invest in innovative research to develop groundbreaking treatments with the goal of curbing this debilitating illness,” said Lee Fixel. “We hope that our gift, along with extensive efforts at the University of Florida, will cement UF Health’s position as the preeminent destination for patient care, research and technological innovation for neurodegenerative diseases.”
This new initiative caps off a decade of impressive growth in UF Health’s neuromedicine research which, with NIH funding now approaching $50 million per year, has become a centerpiece of UF Health’s research portfolio. Together, numerous colleges, departments, centers and institutes work collaboratively to advance patient care, research and education missions. The Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases will further accelerate the efforts of these scientists and clinicians at UF Health.