Cannabis Investor Donates $9 Million For Research at Harvard and MIT
In the subdued light of microscope room, Amanda Vernon reviews an image of cells in a mouse brain with Professor Myriam Heiman. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Cannabis Investor Donates $9 Million For Research at Harvard and MIT

A New York-based cannabis investor, Bob Broderick, gifted a $9 million endowment to aid in cannabis research at MIT and Harvard. Broderick, who has made tens of millions of dollars investing in the legal marijuana industry in Canada, is hoping this donation will kickstart cannabis research at two of America’s leading universities. The donation is the largest private sum thus far for the study of cannabis.

“I saw an opportunity to take a kind of a leadership position in getting these two great cultural institutions involved in the discussion of cannabis in the country,” Broderick told WBUR in Boston.

Bob Broderick
New York-based cannabis investor, Bob Broderick, has donated $9 million towards cannabis research at MIT and Harvard.


Despite the momentum the cannabis industry has enjoyed in recent years, with a number of states legalizing the plant as a recreational level and the federal government legalizing hemp via the 2018 Farm Bill, there are still stigmas associated with scientific research.

“People take risks when they say, ‘I’m going to start doing cannabis work,’ ” he says. “For a young researcher at MIT or Harvard to say, ‘I’m going to pivot my career and study the effects of cannabis,’ I don’t think that’s something that would have happened five years ago.”

The history of cannabis use by humans goes back thousands of years but modern understanding of how cannabinoids impact human health are not well understood given that the drug has been listed as a Schedule I controlled substance for nearly a century.

There is a black hole of knowledge articulates Harvard Medical School professor of neurobiology Bruce Bean. “Two of them have been studied in some detail — THC and CBD,” he says. “Even for those, I have to say our knowledge is very, very sparse in terms of how they actually have their effects on the brain. But for many of the other hundred cannabinoids or so we know — we really know nothing.”

On a public front, The National Institutes of Health are supporting more than $140 million of research on cannabinoids, yet private funding has been slow to follow suit.

Ailments such as anxiety, insomnia, pain and inflammation are anecdotally known to be relieved by cannabis. Last year the DEA and FDA approved the first CBD-infused drug, Epidiolex, in the treatment of epilepsy. Australian scientists are currently studying the impacts of cannabis in the treatment of glioblastoma brain tumors and Israeli is aggressivley pursuing research. Yet so much is left to learn in the realms of mental health, auto-immune diseases and other various forms of chronic disease.

This private $9 million research grant by Broderick to Harvard and MIT may be unprecedented thus far, but he feels that its just the tip of the iceberg.

“My thought is that this is the largest gift to support cannabis research, but it’s not going to be the largest for long.”





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