UMass Medical School announced a $500,000 gift from Biogen Idec to the UMass ALS Champion Fund, which supports critical research into ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases at UMass Medical School. Biogen Idec CEO George Scangos, PhD, presented the gift to former Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci just before a major ALS fundraising event on Thursday, March 15. Cellucci helped launched the Champion Fund last year, shortly after announcing that he had been diagnosed with ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease.
In recognition of the critical need for new treatments for ALS, the UMass ALS Champion Fund was created to drive awareness of and funding for the neuroscience breakthroughs happening at UMass Medical School, and in the laboratory of Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, chair and professor of neurology and one of the world’s leading ALS researchers.
“I am so moved by the generosity of Biogen Idec—a great Massachusetts corporation,” said Cellucci. “One of the greatest national resources we have is found in abundance right here in the commonwealth, in companies like Biogen Idec that are committed to developing cures and treatments that change millions of lives.
“I thank Dr. Scangos and his company. Their generous gift will directly help Dr. Brown and his colleagues,” said Cellucci. “Dr. Brown will not rest; he wants to find a cure. I am so proud to be helping him, raising funds, so that he can continue his ground breaking research that is giving hope—realistic hope—to people living with ALS.”
The Champion Fund aims to help Brown and his colleagues 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 and is being treated at UMass Memorial Medical Center by Brown. Cellucci has chosen to use his story as a catalyst to expand support for 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 Scangos. “In the past several years, there have been tremendous advances in ALS research, which have helped us better understand the disease and seek new treatments. Massachusetts is fortunate to have in our midst a world-class neuroscience research and patient-care center led by a world-renowned physician and scientist—as well as a medical school with the vision and dedication to nurture it. We are proud to support the Champion Fund.”
Biogen Idec presented its gift ahead of a fundraiser at the Seaport Hotel to benefit the Champion Fund. All of the living former governors of Massachusetts, along with Gov. Deval Patrick, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray and former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card are honorary co-chairs of the fundraising effort. Gov. Bill Weld served as the chairman of the 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 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.”
The Biogen Idec donation is the largest single contribution to the campaign since it began in May. 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 Chancellor Michael F. Collins. “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, caregivers and all who support this most-noble cause.”
To become a champion in the fight against ALS, or for more information about the UMass ALS Champion Fund, visit www.UMassALS.com, or join the fight on Facebook (Facebook.com/UMassALS) and Twitter (@UMassALS).
Related coverage in external media:The MetroWest Daily News: Weston company donates $500K to Cellucci ALS fundWCVB TV 5 Boston: Ex-Gov. Raises Money For ALSWBUR: The Talk Turns to Romney’s Chances at Cellucci Fund-Raiser for ALSMassLive.com: Ex-Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci, suffering from ALS, raising funds for researchBoston Herald: William Weld joins Paul Cellucci’s ALS fightThe Weston Town Crier: Weston company donates $500K to Cellucci ALS fundThe Salem News: Ex-Mass. Gov. with ALS raising funds for researchWWLP-TV: Ex-Mass. Gov. with ALS raising funds for researchThe Boston Globe: Political partners reunite to ﬁght ALS