Nick Gilbert Neurofibromatosis Research Institute

Press Release

Gilbert Family Foundation Contributes Nearly $375 Million in Partnership with Henry Ford Health to Bring Shirley Ryan AbilityLab to Detroit


  • World-renowned Shirley Ryan AbilityLab to partner with Henry Ford Health on inpatient rehabilitation hospital embedded within new patient tower at Henry Ford Hospital, with plans for expansion
  • First-of-its-kind neurofibromatosis (NF) institute, named after Dan and Jennifer Gilbert’s late son, Nicolas, to house groundbreaking research advancing toward a cure for NF and increasing access to personalized care
  • Nick Gilbert Neurofibromatosis Research Institute to be housed inside the groundbreaking new Henry Ford Health + Michigan State University Health Sciences research facility

DETROIT, September 6, 2023 – The Gilbert Family Foundation (GFF), Henry Ford Health and Shirley Ryan AbilityLab today announced a historic partnership to bring a 72-bed state-of-the-art physical medicine and rehabilitation facility to Detroit. The facility will be managed by Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, and will become part of Henry Ford Health’s campus expansion. The Gilbert Family Foundation also announced the creation of the Nick Gilbert Neurofibromatosis Research Institute, bringing a revolutionary neurofibromatosis research institute to Detroit in partnership with Henry Ford Health + Michigan State University Health Sciences. Both these partnerships will cement Detroit as a leader in innovative, personalized medical care and research.

The construction and operation of these two initiatives will cost an estimated $439 million over 10 years. To bring the projects to life, the Gilbert Family Foundation will contribute nearly $375 million in grant funding.

“Nearly every family will encounter unexpected health challenges at some point. While our family has faced severe health crises, we have been fortunate to receive some of the best medical and rehabilitative care in the country. Through these investments, we aim to enhance access to that same top-notch care for all Detroiters in times of need,” said Dan Gilbert, Founder and Chairman of Rocket Companies (NYSE:RKT), Co-Founder of the Gilbert Family Foundation and a former Shirley Ryan AbilityLab patient. “Jennifer and I are extremely proud to work alongside Henry Ford Health and Michigan State University to play a part in bringing both the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and Nick Gilbert Neurofibromatosis Research Institute to Detroit. These are important resources for Detroiters and residents across the state, and we are hopeful they will attract the brightest minds and most promising research to our rapidly transforming city.”


Shirley Ryan AbilityLab at Henry Ford Health
Chicago-based Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the best rehabilitation hospital in the country for an unprecedented 33 consecutive years, will bring more than 70 years of leadership in rehabilitation care and science to the 72-bed, 125,000-square-foot facility. It will occupy three floors of the new Henry Ford Hospital patient tower planned for the corner of West Grand Boulevard and the John C. Lodge Freeway in Detroit.

The overall construction for the space will cost $179 million, with $119 million coming from the Gilbert Family Foundation and $60 million being financed by Henry Ford Health. It is expected to open in 2029. The Gilbert Family Foundation will also establish a $10 million fund that will increase access to rehabilitation care for low-income Detroit residents who have limited or no insurance coverage.

“This is simply amazing news for the people we serve in Michigan and beyond – and we're so proud to be a catalyst for all that’s happening here in Detroit,” said Bob Riney, President and CEO of Henry Ford Health. “We’ve long envisioned bringing life-changing rehabilitation services to Michigan to meet this critical need. At the same time, we are honored to expand our commitment to transformative research. Now, thanks to the power of these partnerships and the generosity of Dan and Jennifer Gilbert, we can achieve both on behalf of those we serve.”

The rehabilitation facility will provide inpatient care for those recovering from a stroke, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury and other conditions. Shirley Ryan AbilityLab treats more patients for these conditions than any other single rehabilitation hospital in the nation.

“Dan and Jennifer Gilbert understand firsthand the value of providing the people of Detroit with access to the best rehabilitation care. We are inspired by their vision and honored to collaborate with them to make this concept a reality,” said Peggy Kirk, President and CEO of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. “We also are thrilled to partner with Henry Ford, a premier healthcare provider, so that patients have the best opportunity for recovery following debilitating injuries and illnesses.”

In addition to the Detroit-based facility, Henry Ford Health and Shirley Ryan AbilityLab are also planning to expand their partnership to other Henry Ford inpatient rehabilitation facilities across metro Detroit, including units at its Macomb and Wyandotte hospitals.

Detroit-based Henry Ford Health, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers, has been a top destination for complex medical care for more than a century and is consistently ranked among the top five NIH-funded research institutions in Michigan. Today’s announcement further strengthens the health system’s commitment, alongside key partners, to invest $2.5 billion over the next decade to reimagine its primary academic healthcare campus in Detroit, and create an accessible, walkable community with vibrant and innovative residential, commercial, retail and recreational components.

Nick Gilbert Neurofibromatosis Research Institute (NGNRI)
Neurofibromatosis is a genetic disease that causes tumors to grow on nerve pathways anywhere in the body. According to the Children’s Tumor Foundation, NF affects one in every 2,000 births throughout the world, and estimates that 4 million people worldwide are living with some form of NF, which can be either inherited or be the result of a spontaneous change in a gene.

NF1 is the most common of the three types of neurofibromatosis, and often sees tumors develop in the brain or on the spinal cord. While NF1 tumors are generally not cancerous, they may cause significant deformities and health issues such as blindness.

Dan and Jennifer Gilbert’s late son Nick was diagnosed with NF1 as a child. Throughout his life, he championed neurofibromatosis awareness and passionately supported research into the disease. The Gilbert Family Foundation and sister nonprofit NF Forward have invested nearly $100 million into research to cure neurofibromatosis.

The Nick Gilbert Neurofibromatosis Research Institute will collaborate with research institutions and researchers from around the world to create novel disease models using organoid technology and other research methodologies. These organoids or “mini organs in a dish” allow researchers to rapidly test potential drug treatments to see the positive and negative impacts of those potential treatments on healthy and unhealthy tissue. The nature of this technology will also allow for more personalized healthcare for Henry Ford Health and NF patients.

This new institute will be housed within Henry Ford Health + Michigan State University’s new research building on Henry Ford Health’s east campus, which is set to open in 2027. The construction of this part of the overall new facility is expected to cost $50 million and will be funded by the Gilbert Family Foundation. Additionally, GFF has committed $190 million over ten years to support operations and research.

The Nick Gilbert Neurofibromatosis Research Institute will be the first brick-and-mortar institute solely dedicated to neurofibromatosis, and one of the first institutes to leverage organoid technology and other novel models to address a single disease.  

“The opportunity for our joint research facility is to conjoin the strengths of world-class academia, clinical research and healthcare,” said MSU Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. “That partnership is further strengthened by our partners at the Gilbert Family Foundation to become the first-of-its-kind research institute dedicated completely to a debilitating disease like neurofibromatosis. As a result of this institutional engagement, Detroit will be known for groundbreaking research and patient care. MSU is proud to be part of bringing these plans to fruition.”

Today’s announcement was held at the newly-renovated Book Tower, and also included remarks from Detroit City Council President Mary Sheffield and Deputy Mayor Todd Bettison. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan welcomed Dan and Jennifer Gilbert’s newest philanthropic initiative.

“The magnitude of Dan and Jennifer Gilbert's generosity in Detroit is just extraordinary,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.  “Between their original $500 million philanthropic commitment and today's announcement, they are investing nearly $1 billion in Detroit and its residents. Each financial gift they are making is deeply personal to them, whether it is helping thousands of Detroiters stay in their homes, building a physical rehabilitation center or funding a research facility to help people living with the same genetic condition their son Nick suffered from. Detroit is a better place because of Dan and Jennifer's commitment to helping others.”

To access photography, video and speaker biographies from today’s announcement, please click here.


About the Gilbert Family Foundation:
The Gilbert Family Foundation is a private nonprofit foundation founded by Jennifer and Dan Gilbert to accelerate a cure for neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) and build economic opportunity and equity in the city of Detroit. The Gilbert Family Foundation supports groundbreaking, cutting-edge research in hopes of eradicating NF1, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves anywhere in the body. Additionally, the Foundation supports the economic stability and mobility of residents in Detroit by investing in wealth-building opportunities and breaking down systemic barriers. For more information on the Gilbert Family Foundation, please visit

About the Nick Gilbert Neurofibromatosis Research Institute:
The Nick Gilbert Neurofibromatosis Research Institute (NGNRI) is the world’s first brick-and-mortar research facility solely focused on finding a cure for neurofibromatosis or NF. Named in memory of Nick Gilbert, who passed away from complications related to NF in 2023, NGNRI seeks to discover and develop improved treatments and cures for neurofibromatosis type 1 and other debilitating neuronal diseases and related conditions. NGNRI paves the way for more personalized health care by leveraging next generation technologies, including ‘organoids’ or mini organs in a dish, and advancing leading research. NGNRI will be housed within the Henry Ford Health + Michigan State University Health Sciences research campus.

About Henry Ford Health:
Serving communities across Michigan and beyond, Henry Ford Health is committed to partnering with patients and members along their entire health journey – by providing a full continuum of services from primary and preventative care, to complex and specialty care, health insurance, a full suite of home health offerings, virtual care, pharmacy, eye care and other healthcare retail. It is one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers, recognized for clinical excellence in cancer care, cardiology and cardiovascular surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics and sports medicine, and multi-organ transplants. With more than 2,000 active research projects annually, it is consistently ranked among the top five NIH-funded institutions in Michigan. With more than 33,000 valued team members, Henry Ford Health is also committed to educating the next generation of health professionals, training more than 4,000 medical students, residents and fellows every year across 50+ accredited programs. For more information, visit

About Henry Ford Health + MSU
The product of a landmark, 30-year partnership, Henry Ford Health + MSU Health Sciences is focused on setting a new standard for how individuals and communities experience care across the state of Michigan and the nation. Through a joint research enterprise, establishment of a robust cancer center, furthering other clinical innovations and programs, and a focus on academic medical and health education of the future Henry Ford Health + MSU Health Sciences is reimagining health care innovation, delivering health and wellness and fighting health disparities that plague vulnerable communities. Visit to learn more.

About Shirley Ryan AbilityLab:
Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, formerly the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), is the global leader in physical medicine and rehabilitation for adults and children with the most severe, complex conditions — from traumatic brain and spinal cord injury to stroke, amputation and cancer-related impairment. The organization expands and accelerates leadership in the field that began at RIC in 1953. The quality of its care has led to the designation of “No. 1 Rehabilitation Hospital in America” by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1991. Upon opening in March 2017, the $550 million, 1.2-million-square-foot Shirley Ryan AbilityLab became the first-ever “translational” research hospital in which physicians, scientists, innovators, technologists, and clinicians work together in the same space, surrounding patients, discovering new approaches and applying (or “translating”) research in real time. This unique model enables patients to have 24/7 access to the brightest minds, the latest research and the best opportunity for recovery. Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization. For more information, go to

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