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A novel way to nurture potential

Maxine and Winston Wallin. (Photo: Don Dickinson)

The late Winston Wallin was keen to invest in promising but untested ideas. Today, University of Minnesota neuroscientists like Kenneth Baker, Ph.D., hope to benefit from Wallin’s belief that it’s worth taking a risk to nurture great potential.

Baker is one of four University researchers who got a boost to their work with one of the first Winston and Maxine Wallin Neuroscience Discovery Fund awards, which were distributed over the winter. Baker is investigating whether drug addiction can be treated by electrically stimulating specific parts of the brain’s reward circuitry to reduce or mask abnormal neural activity.

His results could offer hope for patients whose addiction has not been helped by traditional approaches. But because his research is in the preliminary stages, getting federal grants to continue it is nearly impossible.

“Young investigators are unlikely to get [federal] support since they don’t have a track record or may be trying something that hasn’t even been thought of before,” says Aaron Friedman, M.D., vice president for health sciences and dean of the Medical School. “Most people want to bet on a sure thing.”

Luckily, Wallin wasn’t one of them.

The Wallin Neuroscience Discovery Fund represents a new approach to philanthropy. It’s designed to provide University neuroscience researchers with pilot grants to launch promising projects. Shortly before his death in December 2010, Winston Wallin and his wife, Maxine, and their adult children put in motion the fund, which provides an annually recurring $500,000 gift to support the pursuit of novel ideas by University neuroscientists.

The other three recipients and their projects are:

Read more about the Wallin Neuroscience Discovery Fund.

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