Born in London in 1910, J. David Gladstone was orphaned as a boy and came to North America at age 10. He began a career in real estate in Southern California at age 28, eventually making his fortune as the first developer to create the region’s enclosed shopping malls (such as the Northridge Fashion Center mall). His accidental death in 1971 left an estate valued at about $8 million to support medical students interested in research.
It soon became clear to the three trustees administering Mr. Gladstone’s trust that his legacy could support a far more substantial philanthropic enterprise. In 1979, they launched The J. David Gladstone Institutes under the leadership of Robert W. Mahley, MD, PhD, a leading cardiovascular scientist who at the time was working at the National Institutes of Health.
Through an affiliation agreement with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), the Gladstone Institutes was founded as a research and training facility housed at San Francisco General Hospital. After a dozen years of cardiovascular breakthroughs, we expanded our focus in 1991 to include virology and immunology. Thanks to a partnership involving Gladstone, UCSF, the City and County of San Francisco and the State of California, the new institute focused on the growing HIV/AIDS crisis.
In 1998, Gladstone addressed another expanding emergency—brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease—by founding a third institute dedicated to unraveling neurological illnesses.
In 2004, we moved to the new facility that we built in San Francisco’s Mission Bay, ushering in a renewed sense of collaboration among Gladstone’s growing scientific staff. Two years later, in 2006, Gladstone founded a center dedicated to translating its biological discoveries into therapies that can help an ever-growing body of patients—whether they suffer from congenital heart disease, Hepatitis C or Parkinson’s disease. Three years later, Gladstone joined forces with Taube Philanthropies and the Koret Foundation to found the Taube/Koret Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research, as a direct outgrowth of our growing focus on “translational” work.
In 2010, after three decades of leading Gladstone, Dr. Mahley stepped down in order to return to more active research. That same year, R. Sanders “Sandy” Williams, MD, left Duke University, where he had been Dean of the School of Medicine—as well as Senior Vice Chancellor and Senior Advisor for International Strategy—to become Gladstone’s new president. The following year, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation helped launch the Center for Comprehensive Alzheimer’s Disease Research with a generous $6M lead gift, while the Roddenberry Foundation gave $5 million to launch the Roddenberry Center for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine. Also in 2011, the independent and philanthropic Gladstone Foundation formed with the mission of expanding the financial resources available to drive’s Gladstone’s mission.
Today, our 300+ scientists are driven by a palpable sense of dedication and urgency to prevent, treat and cure a carefully chosen subset of some of the world's most devastating illnesses. Cardiovascular disease kills more people than any other condition on the planet. HIV/AIDS has killed some 30 million people in three decades. And neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases will afflict twice as many sufferers by 2050 as they do today, if present trends continue unabated.