A $375,000 gift from Dallas businessman Berry Cox and his family will create an endowment to advance studies on brain health at UT Southwestern, with a special focus on Alzheimer’s disease research.

The gift from the Berry R. Cox Family Foundation will support the work of a team led by physician-scientist Dr. Joachim Herz. Dr. Herz, holder of the Thomas O. and Cinda Hicks Family Distinguished Chair in Alzheimer’s Disease Research, is noted for his groundbreaking research into how a mutation in a single protein triggers the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease, which affects 5.3 million Americans and is the country’s seventh-leading cause of death.

Dr. Herz’s most recent work focuses on the study of molecules called APOE receptors, which are embedded in the membranes of nerve cells. APOE receptors make the cells more responsive to incoming signals from other nerve cells, or neurons. A mutated form of the APOE molecule, called APOE4, disrupts these signals. People with the gene for APOE4 have up to 10 times the risk of developing Alzheimer’s earlier in life than those without it.

Dr. Herz, director of the Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases, earned his undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Heidelberg. He completed residencies in Germany and in the United Kingdom, and joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 1989.

Mr. Cox has been chairman of Berry R. Cox Inc., a private investment company, for more than 30 years. He serves on the board of Southwestern Medical Foundation and was an original investor and director of The Home Depot for more than 25 years. He has served on the boards of Texas Commerce Bancshares; Children’s Medical Center Dallas; the Greenhill School; and the associate board of the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University.

He and his wife, Jeanne, were instrumental in establishing the John G. Tower Center for Political Studies at SMU, which was named after his father-in-law, the late Sen. John Tower of Texas. The Dallas couple has two sons, Justin and John.

The Berry R. Cox Family Foundation was formed in 2000 to facilitate the family’s charitable activities and interests in education, medicine, low-income housing, parks and wildlife, foreign relations and other causes.