A Main Line couple have given $20 million to spur multidisciplinary autism research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the university announced Thursday.
Two of their three adult children are on the autism spectrum.
In 2015, Hock Tan and Lisa Yang, who have homes in Bryn Mawr and California, gave $10 million to Cornell University — her alma mater — to fund the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Employment and Disability Institute. It focuses on helping people with disabilities find meaningful work.
The new gift to MIT — his alma mater — is meant to help scientists study what causes autism and find effective treatments.
Yang said Thursday that she was impressed by the degree to which brain researchers at MIT collaborate among themselves and with others in the Boston area. She hopes that the new Hock E. Tan and K. Lisa Yang Center for Autism Research will cause scientists to "coalesce" around a "very difficult" disorder that she thinks gets too little support.
"You really can't cure anything unless you do basic science," she said.
A native of Singapore, Yang worked as an investment banker before retiring. Tan, who is originally from Malaysia, is CEO of chip maker Broadcom Ltd. in Southern California.
Yang said the couple moved to Philadelphia more than 25 years ago after a pediatric neurologist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was the first to diagnose their son Douglas with autism. The doctor suggested that the boy would get a better education here than in Singapore, where the family was living. Douglas, now 31, attended the Timothy School and then received services from Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health. He lives in a Devereux group home. Yang is on Devereux's board.
When it was time for her daughter, Eva, who has milder symptoms, to go to college, Yang attended classes with her at Harcum College to boost her confidence and help with her "poor auditory processing skills."
"She made it," Yang said. "I was able to fade out of her classes."
Eva was accepted into software giant SAP's Autism at Work program and has a permanent job.
Yang and Tan's third child, a son, is not on the spectrum and is working as an investment banker in California.
Yang said she thinks it's important to draw more attention and resources to autism. "People," she said, "need to stand up, to make a difference."