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UMass Medical School Receives Major Gift for ALS Research

Friday, March 16, 2012

 

Biotechnology Company Biogen Idec wrote a rather large check to help support former Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci’s fight to find a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Cellucci announced last year that he was battling the neurodegenerative disease and ever since then he’s been bringing awareness to ALS and trying to raise money for a cure.

The University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) announced a $500,000 gift from Biogen Idec to the UMass/ALS Champion Fund, which supports critical research into ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Biogen CEO George Scangos, Ph.D., presented the gift to former Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci, who launched the Champion Fund.

This fund allows for discretionary spending on research. The head of the UMMS Neurology Department, Robert Brown, said, “Having a fund for unrestricted dollars is great for innovative research. Normally researchers have to apply for a grant and follow certain guidelines. Some of the most important research discoveries come out of innovative funds like this.”

The Champion Fund aims to enable UMMS scientists to pursue ALS research leads that might otherwise take years to attract funding from traditional sources. As a result, this fund will make researchers at UMMS better prepared to “seize the moment” when highly promising discoveries are made in the lab. 
Cellucci announced in January 2011 that he had been diagnosed with ALS. He is being treated at UMass Medical School by Dr. Brown. Governor Cellucci has chosen to use his story as a catalyst to support Massachusetts’ public medical school and the research it is doing around ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases.
“For those of us dedicated to the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, this is a pivotal moment,” said Dr. Scangos.

Celluci hopes to raise $10 million for the Champion Fund and hopes area residents will donate. 

Several former and present lawmakers were on hand for the dinner to raise awareness for ALS, including Lt. Governor Tim Murray, US Senator Scott Brown, Former Governors William Weld and Jane Swift.

“I thank Dr. Scangos and his company. Their generous gift will help support the incredible research into potential treatments for ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases being done at UMass Medical School,” said Celluci. “Dr. Brown and his team will not rest: they want to find a cure. I am so proud to be helping them, raising funds, so that they can continue their groundbreaking research that is giving hope—realistic hope—to people living with ALS.”

 Governor Bill Weld served as the chairman of this evening’s event.
“I’m deeply honored to host this event and help raise money for the UMass/ALS Champion Fund; it is but a small measure of my respect and regard for my dear friend, Paul Cellucci, as he lives courageously with this illness,” said Governor Weld. “It is no surprise to all of Paul’s many friends and colleagues that he continues his long commitment to public service by dedicating his energy to raising awareness – and critical philanthropic support – for this hugely important effort.”

Biogen Idec’s donation is the largest single contribution to the campaign since its inception in May 2011. To date, the fund has raised $1.3 million in cash and pledges to support basic and clinical science research into potential treatments for ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases.

“Fundraising, like research, is a team sport,” said medical school Chancellor Michael F. Collins, MD. “It is incredible to see the team that has rallied around Governor Cellucci and our medical school. We have heard so many stories from so many people touched by this illness. They are moved by the Governor’s steadfast commitment. His spirit inspires our researchers, physicians and all who support this most noble cause.”

 

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