UMMS receives largest alumni donation in school history to support ALS, neuroscience research

Riccios pledge $2 million to support the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund and establish the Riccio Fund for Neuroscience Research

UMass Medical School Communications

October 03, 2017
  Diane and Dan Riccio
 

Diane and Dan Riccio

A grateful alumna and her husband have pledged $2 million to UMass Medical School to advance amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and neuroscience research. The gift from Diane M. (Casey) Riccio, PhD, GSBS ’03, and her husband, Dan Riccio, of Los Gatos, Calif., comes four years after the couple made a $1 million gift to UMMS for ALS research, which was then the single largest alumni donation in the history of the medical school.

Half of the Riccios’ new gift will support the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund, created by the late Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci in 2011 to accelerate cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research led by Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, the Leo P. and Theresa M. LaChance Chair in Medical Research and chair and professor of neurology; the other half of the gift will establish the Riccio Fund for Neuroscience, which will support investigation, collaboration and innovation in the neurosciences throughout the institution, as well as with partners outside the medical school. This fund is designed to broaden the understanding of the brain in ways that might open new pathways to treat a range of neurodegenerative disorders.

“Having spent time talking with the impressive neuroscience faculty leaders at UMass Medical School, their passion is palpable, the level of collaboration is remarkable and the progress they are making each and every day holds great hope for those suffering from neurological disorders,” said Diane Riccio. “Through this gift we want to ensure that they have additional resources to pursue promising scientific theories.”

As a student in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Diane Riccio studied cell motility in the laboratory of George B. Witman, PhD, the George F. Booth Chair in the Basic Sciences and professor of radiology. Dan Riccio earned his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at UMass Amherst.

While the Riccios did not know Gov. Cellucci, they said they always knew they wanted to give back to the university from which they both graduated, and that they were moved by the dedication and commitment of the Cellucci family and the promise of the world-class research team at UMMS in their quest for an effective treatment for ALS.

“We are delighted to support the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund and the cutting-edge work of Dr. Brown,” Dan Riccio said. “It is especially encouraging to us that any ALS-related discoveries will almost certainly yield advances in the understanding and treatment of other neurodegenerative diseases, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. This is one of many reasons we support the uniquely collaborative physician scientists at UMass Medical School.”

The UMass ALS Cellucci Fund supports Dr. Brown’s work to identify new genetic targets and develop novel gene therapies. Brown, who was Gov. Cellucci’s personal physician, is one of the world’s leading ALS researchers.

“Inch by inch, immense progress is being made in the search for effective treatments for ALS and other neurological conditions,” said Brown, adding that he “is confident that the combination of smart minds and cutting-edge techniques will lead us to find treatment for ALS, such as methods to turn off genes that we know cause this disease.”

Since its inception, the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund has strived to give scientists the resources they need to move ahead with the boldest research ideas in interdisciplinary labs under the direction of Brown.

“My family and I couldn’t be more grateful to the Riccios for their philanthropic investment,” said Jan Cellucci, who recalled that her late husband appreciated that great victories are always the result of a team effort. “The Riccios’ generous support honors the passion and commitment of the UMass Medical School ALS research team in their most serious of pursuits, which aligns beautifully with what Paul accomplished during his long career in public service.”

“Diane and Dan Riccio truly understand the impact that philanthropy can have in advancing research that will improve the quality of life for people with ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases,” said Chancellor Michael F. Collins. “All of us at UMass Medical School consider the Riccios’ remarkable gift to be a strong vote of confidence in our faculty, research team and institution. It is a privilege to have their heartfelt and enthusiastic support.”

Dan Riccio is senior vice president of hardware engineering at Apple, Inc. Diane Riccio serves as medical scientific champion at the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern California and Northern Nevada.

The UMass ALS Cellucci Fund was designed to offer researchers funding for novel, innovative ideas that might otherwise take years to attract funding for from traditional sources. To date it has raised nearly $5 million in gifts and pledges. To learn more about the Cellucci Fund, visit www.umassals.com.

Related story on UMassMedNow:
Inspired by Gov. Cellucci, Riccios give $1 million for ALS research at UMMS

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