Grant aims to honor Nobel Laureate by increasing support for research at UMass Medical School
April 19, 2007

WORCESTER, Mass.-Seeking to encourage new interest in and support for biomedical research, the Margaret E. Sherman Trust has announced a $250,000 challenge grant to support scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Made in honor of Medical School cell biologist Craig C. Mello, PhD, co-recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the Margaret E. Sherman Trust Challenge Grant will match up to $250,000 in eligible donations made to the Annual Research Fund at the school's Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research (WFBR) through December 31, 2007. 

"In the 29 years I've been with UMass Medical School, there has been no more exciting time than now because of the plan and vision in place for building our research program," said John L. Sullivan, MD, Vice Chancellor for Research. "Programs like the Annual Research Fund support talented young scientists in the early stages of their careers, or seasoned researchers undertaking ambitious but untried projects. The impetus provided by the Sherman Trust Challenge Grant will enable UMass Medical School to expand the impact of these powerful seed grants."  

"We are moved by the spirit of discovery at UMass Medical School that fostered Dr. Mello's discovery of RNAi," said Matthew Erskine, Esq., Managing Partner of the Worcester law firm Erskine & Erskine and a WFBR trustee. RNA interference, discovered by Dr. Mello and colleague Andrew Z. Fire, PhD, of Stanford University, is a biological process through which double-stranded RNA inhibits gene expression in a highly specific fashion. In addition to holding promise as a therapeutic, it has become an invaluable tool in laboratories around the world and has accelerated the pace of biomedical inquiry. "Research like this, which gives us so much hope in the quest to improve the quality of life and save lives, requires a team of dedicated scientists, talented leaders and supporters, both internal and external," continued Mr. Erskine. "Dr. Mello's remarkable discovery reminds us that supporting the outstanding research taking place in our own backyard has tremendous global impact. I am hopeful that individuals and organizations in our community will step up to the plate by sending a donation that will be magnified thanks to this matching grant."  

The Margaret E. Sherman Trust Challenge Grant is intended to encourage others to donate to the WFBR at a time when National Institutes of Health funding has declined, threatening the promise and pace of scientific discovery. The NIH, which annually invests more than $28 billion in medical research, has been level-funded in recent years, resulting in a decline in the number of scientific research proposals that receive funding. Dr. Mello has been an outspoken advocate for increasing the NIH budget and has noted that in today's climate, he and Fire- as young scientists-would likely have encountered difficulty in securing funding for the work that led to their seminal discovery.  

Pledged by the Margaret E. Sherman Trust, which is managed by Erskine & Erskine, the Challenge Grant offers 100% matching up to $1,000 per person or $2,000 per couple for donations and written pledges from individuals, organizations or corporations to the WFBR Annual Research Fund (ARF) received by December 31, 2007 who have not given to the ARF in the two years prior to November 30, 2006. In addition, increased donations from individuals, organizations or corporations who have given to the Fund in either of the two previous years will also be matched 100% up to $1,000 per person or $2,000 per couple. New and increased membership gifts to the Hudson Hoagland Society, the annual leadership giving society of the Worcester Foundation, are also eligible. Bequests, estate gifts and employer matching gifts are not eligible. For additional information, call Lizabeth Rombousek at the UMass Memorial Foundation at 508-856-5540 or email . 

About The Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research
The WFBR is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization internationally recognized for its revolutionary contributions to biology and medicine. Among its best known contributions were the discovery and development of the birth control pill, the pioneering work on in vitro fertilization, and the first systematic study of the anti-tumor actions of Tamoxifen, an anti-estrogen drug that subsequently revolutionized treatment of breast cancer.

Initially an independent research institute, the WFBR merged with the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1997 and is managed by the UMass Memorial Foundation, which raises funds on behalf of the University of Massachusetts Medical School and UMass Memorial Health Care to advance the frontiers of medical discovery, improve the quality of life, and educate tomorrow's medical leaders and scientists. 

The University of Massachusetts Medical School, one of the fastest growing academic health centers in the country, has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research.  The Medical School attracts more than $174 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources. For more information visit 

Contact: Alison Duffy, 508-856-2000;