Why Chinese billionaire Tianqiao Chen transitioned from investing in video games to CHS, neuroscience

After panic attacks forced Tianqiao Chen, 44, to retreat from the public eye for nearly 10 years, the Chinese billionaire said he's ready to speak openly about the health issues which led him to transition his focus from video game development to neuroscience, Bloomberg reports.

In 1999, Mr. Chen, his wife and his younger brother started Shanda Interactive Entertainment, an online gaming company. The company raised $152 million in a Nasdaq initial public offering in May 2004. In 2009, Mr. Chen spun off the games unit, Shanda Games, which became the largest IPO in the U.S. that year, valued at $1 billion, according to Bloomberg.

However, Mr. Chen said the stresses of the job caused his health to deteriorate. In 2004, Mr. Chen experienced his first panic attack. He said he suffered a second "more severe and longer lasting" panic attack in 2009 after a failed business venture.

"It was so stressful, so painful," Mr. Chen told Bloomberg. "As I watched the sunset every night, I thought I would never wake up."

Following his health scares, Mr. Chen and his wife moved to Singapore. It was there that Mr. Chen said he was able to seriously focus on his health, an endeavor that, combined with his Buddhist beliefs, convinced him to commit to researching the human brain, according to the report.

Mr. Chen and his wife have reportedly set aside $1 billion toward the effort, just less than half of his personal fortune worth $2.4 billion. The $1 billion in funding includes the $115 million the couple previously donated to Pasadena-based California Institute of Technology to establish the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience at CalTech. The rest of the funds, Mr. Chen said, will be used to fund various research endeavors and to create Chen University "somewhere in the U.S.," the report states.

"This will be a university whose mission is to try to answer who we are and where we come from," he said. "For thousands of years, we improved our happiness through changing the physical world. We now have to solve this problem by exploring inward."

Mr. Chen said he and his wife also plan to fund research into debilitating brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. His investment firm, Shanda Group, has invested in more than 100 advanced technology ventures integrating virtual reality technology and neuroscience. The firm also maintains significant holdings in Franklin, Tenn.-based for-profit hospital operator Community Health Systems.

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