Philanthropists Andrew and Barbara Taylor and the Crawford Taylor Foundation have committed $10 million to Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis to continue research to investigate the scientific underpinnings of psychiatric illnesses, with the goal of improving diagnosis and treatment.
The new gift will support the Taylor Family Institute for Innovative Psychiatric Research, established in 2012 at the School of Medicine with a $20 million gift from the Taylors.
“Our family has experienced mental illness, and that’s one reason why it’s important for us to make a difference in this area,” said Andrew Taylor, a life trustee of Washington University and chair of Leading Together, the university’s successful capital campaign that recently concluded and raised $3.378 billion. “It’s tremendously exciting to think that our contributions to the Taylor Family Institute could help people around the globe.”
The World Health Organization estimates that psychiatric disorders — such as depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia — affect more than 80 million Americans and roughly 25 percent of people around the world. But despite how common the disorders are, few drugs provide effective treatments.
“Washington University is extraordinarily fortunate to have the support of the Taylor Family,” said Washington University Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “Researchers at the Taylor Family Institute are working to develop new treatments for a range of often debilitating conditions, and much of this work would not be possible without the Taylors’ generosity and determination to effect needed change.”
The Taylor Family Institute’s focus on developing new, more effective therapies for psychiatric disorders is rooted in a stark reality. Although existing medications are helpful to many, a number of such therapies demonstrate limited effectiveness and come with wide-ranging side effects, such as weight gain and sleep problems. And approved psychiatric drugs aren’t designed to target the fundamental mechanisms in the brain that underlie illness.
“This gift further underscores the Taylor family’s commitment to advancing psychiatric research and their desire to bring hope and healing to those suffering from mental illness,” said Chancellor-elect Andrew D. Martin. “We are deeply grateful for their generosity and for the trust they have placed in the scientists at the Taylor Family Institute at Washington University.”
In the past six years, scientists at the institute have developed sophisticated tools to study how particular brain chemicals — called neurosteroids and oxysterols — alter brain function and play a role in regulating cognition, emotion and motivation. That work has been important in identifying new drugs that target brain cell receptors affected by these chemicals.
Production of neurosteroids in the brain is influenced by stress and by mental illness. Institute scientists have found that by replacing or enhancing these depleted steroids, it may be possible to alleviate the stress response in some patients and treat conditions such as post-partum depression, as well as forms of depression that have been resistant to standard treatments.
Working with Sage Therapeutics in Cambridge, Mass., Taylor Family Institute researchers have moved investigational neurosteroid molecules into clinical studies. One such investigational drug, brexanolone, for women with severe post-partum depression, has completed two successful Phase 3 clinical trials and just received FDA approval. Such approval would mark the arrival of the first clinical drug developed by Sage with the help of researchers at the Taylor Family Institute.
“The Taylor family’s initial investment to launch the institute was instrumental in helping our scientists make discoveries that hold great promise for stemming the burden of mental illness, and their continued support bolsters our ability to work on the therapeutic frontiers of psychiatry,” said David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs, the George and Carol Bauer Dean of the School of Medicine, and the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor. “The institute is pursuing an exciting platform for drug development that could impact severe mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia and various forms of depression, and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.”
This gift from the Taylor family provides $7 million to support research, with another $3 million to endow a distinguished professorship at the institute. The institute involves collaborations between several departments, including psychiatry, anesthesiology, developmental biology, radiology, neurology and medicine.
“The institute is doing cutting-edge work,” said Charles F. Zorumski, MD, the Samuel B. Guze Professor and head of the Department of Psychiatry, and director of the Taylor Family Institute. “The Taylor family is making it possible for us to push our research forward by funding proof-of-concept work — a necessary precursor to developing new compounds that can be evaluated in clinical trials.”
Andrew C. Taylor is executive chairman of St. Louis-based Enterprise Holdings. He became involved in the automotive business more than 50 years ago, took the role of CEO at Enterprise Rent-A-Car in 1991, was named chairman in 2001 and then executive chairman in 2013. Enterprise Holdings — founded in 1957 as Executive Leasing by Andrew Taylor’s father, Jack Taylor, who was an emeritus trustee of the university — now operates the Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car brands. Today, with annual revenues of $24.1 billion and 100,000 employees, Enterprise Holdings and its affiliates own 2 million cars and trucks and operate more than 10,000 locations.
Civically minded, Andrew Taylor is a trustee of the Naval Aviation History Foundation, life trustee of the Missouri Botanical Garden and director of Commerce Bancshares. He also is a former member of the executive committee and board of directors of the United Way of Greater St. Louis and past president of Civic Progress, an organization of leading chief executives in St. Louis who work for improvements on a wide range of civic issues.
His wife, Barbara Taylor, also is a noted advocate for the region. She is an honorary trustee and former president of the Board of Commissioners for the Saint Louis Art Museum, and is a trustee and member of the Executive Committee of Forest Park Forever. She also has held leadership positions for Webster University, Mary Institute/St. Louis Country Day School, the Junior League of St. Louis and St. Louis Children’s Hospital. She graduated from the University of San Francisco with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
The Taylors’ latest gift for psychiatric research extends the family’s legacy of generosity at Washington University. In addition to their support for the Taylor Family Institute and other initiatives, the Taylors and Enterprise Holdings have contributed $70 million to establish and expand the Enterprise Holdings Scholars program, which has helped more than 330 undergraduate students. In 2018, Andrew and Barbara Taylor were recognized with the Robert S. Brookings Award for their dedication to the university.
The Crawford Taylor Foundation — the charity of the Jack C. Taylor family — is committed to enabling and enhancing programs that create lasting legacies in St. Louis. The foundation funds community development programs that enhance St. Louis’ reputation nationally and internationally. It also funds programs that assist women and youth, and the foundation supports animal welfare groups whose efforts focus on rescue and rehabilitation of animals, as well as the prevention of cruelty to animals. In addition, the foundation supports the preservation of parks and places of natural beauty, along with education and development of long-term environmental solutions.