The centre is expected to open in 2010
The University of Sheffield has received the biggest single donation in its history with a gift of £8m to its Motor Neurone Disease research centre.
The money came from the Sheffield Institute Foundation for Motor Neurone Disease (SIFMND) which has been fundraising for four years.
The cash will go towards a new £12m research institute dedicated to finding cures for degenerative diseases.
The chairman of SIFMND, Stephen Sly, is a graduate of the university.
The group was formed by patrons who wanted to support the development of the research institute. In order to raise their donation the patrons entered a number of fundraising events including sponsored events, gala concerts and gruelling expeditions.
The Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience will be run by staff at the university.
It will conduct research into the causes of Motor Neurone Disease and look for a cure. It will also study other degenerative diseases including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Spinal Muscular Atrophy and Multiple Sclerosis.
The head of the institute Prof Pamela Shaw said: "The patrons of SIFMND are inspirational and their support and generosity have spurred me on to build a dedicated research institute which will bring together the best clinicians and scientists under one roof.
"This is a wonderful and exciting step forward for patients with MND and other disorders of the motor system, and we are delighted to be part of it."
The university's director of development Miles Stephenson said: "This is the largest philanthropic gift to the university from private benefaction since the Edwardian period.
"We are most grateful to all the donors to SIFMND, both large and small, who have made this possible."