The Ryan Institute was established in 2013 with a $15 million gift from Thomas M. Ryan, a 1975 alumnus of the University of Rhode Island’s College of Pharmacy, and his wife, Cathy. They chose to name the institute in honor of Mr. Ryan’s parents, George and Anne Ryan. Research at the Ryan Institute, complementing and enhancing existing research at URI, will focus on discovering therapies and preventative approaches to combat neurodegenerative diseases.
In November, 2015, President David Dooley joined Gov. Gina Raimondo and the Ryans at the State Capitol for the announcement that Paula Grammas, Ph.D. would be the inaugural director of the Ryan Institute. Grammas had been executive director of the Garrison Institute on Aging at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock. She had also directed the Oklahoma Neuroscience Center and served on the faculty of the Wayne State University School of Medicine. As a researcher, Grammas has opened new ways to understanding the causes of Alzheimer’s disease, developing strong evidence that an inflammatory reaction in blood vessels of the brain may trigger or accelerate the degeneration and death of nerve cells.
Within a few months, the Ryan Institute had set up shop in labs and offices within the Pharmacy Building, and set to work building a faculty and staff dedicated to making good on the Ryans’ vision: an institute where key discoveries are made and then developed into therapies for neurodegenerative diseases.
In 2016 the Institute formalized its first public-private partnership, with MindImmune, a pharma startup exploring potential Alzheimer’s disease therapies targeting immune cells in the brain.