“This gift provides a unique opportunity for UCI to establish a world-class research center focused on the area of depression, which is extremely important from a societal point of view,” says Pramod Khargonekar, vice chancellor for research, left, with Dr. Michael Stamos, dean of the School of Medicine, center, and Frank LaFerla, dean of the School of Biological Sciences, right. Photo: Steve Zylius, UCI
The estate of Audrey Steele Burnand has gifted $57.75 million to the University of California, Irvine to fund the creation of a new campuswide center that will pursue research into the causes and treatment of depression and also support the UCI-managed Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center.
More than $55 million of the gift is earmarked for advancing depression research at UCI. It’s believed to be the largest philanthropic donation to a U.S. university to support research focused solely on depression, which is the most prevalent mental health disorder in the U.S.
“This is a truly transformative gift from a longtime and great supporter of our vital work,” said UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman. “Audrey Steele Burnand’s legacy will enable us to create a world-class research center that builds upon UCI’s historical excellence in the neurosciences to make life better for millions of people.”
According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression affects about 1 in 15 adults in any given year. And 1 in 6 people will experience the disorder at some point in their life. Depression can occur at any time, but on average, it first appears during the late teens to mid-20s. Women are more likely than men to undergo depression, with some studies showing that one-third of them will experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime.
“This gift provides a unique opportunity for UCI to establish a world-class research center focused on the area of depression, which is extremely important from a societal point of view,” said Pramod Khargonekar, vice chancellor for research. “With our campus strength in interdisciplinary, collaborative research, we are in a great position to leverage this support to produce discoveries about this debilitating disorder.”
The gift will create the Noel Drury M.D. Depression Research Center. Drury is a board-certified psychiatrist who practiced in Newport Beach.
“This is an opportunity for UCI to make an enormous contribution toward helping the millions of people who directly and indirectly suffer from the effects of depression, which has become a major mental health crisis that can lead to job loss, social relationship breakdowns, drug abuse and suicide,” said Frank LaFerla, dean of the School of Biological Sciences. “Through the discoveries made at this outstanding new research center, we look forward to becoming a global scientific leader in uncovering the underpinnings of depression and helping those who need it most.”
UCI is distinctively able to use the Burnand gift through the Drury Depression Research Center to conduct innovative research in myriad campus areas – from biology and the health sciences to engineering, psychological science and the social sciences. The university already has well-established and influential centers for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia (UCI MIND), behavior and learning (the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory and the Conte Center@UCI), and integrative health (the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute) that are potentially poised to benefit from Burnand’s philanthropy.
“I think it’s an extraordinarily exciting development to have a major investment like this in an area in which UCI has so many traditional strengths,” says Dr. Michael J. Stamos, dean of the School of Medicine. “Our objective will be to execute on a full spectrum of research – from basic science to translational studies to clinical trials. It must go from bench to bedside, and I am certain we have the ability to do this.”
About Audrey Steele Burnand
A well-known philanthropist who lived in Newport Beach, Burnand contributed to the arts, education, environmental conservation, and scientific and medical research at institutions throughout Southern California. She died on June 27, 2020. During her lifetime, she supported Alzheimer’s disease research at UCI MIND and made gifts to create and support the Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center.
As part of her estate gift to the university, $2.6 million will go toward providing perpetual support to the UCI-managed Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center, which is located in Borrego Springs and is part of the University of California Natural Reserve System. The 75-acre facility provides research and environmental engagement opportunities for students, scientists and the community.