In recognition of a $5 million commitment from the Robert Packard Foundation, Hopkins' Center for ALS Research was officially renamed the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins in a ceremony held July 12 at the Phipps Building on the East Baltimore campus.
Uniformly fatal, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis--also known as Lou Gehrig's disease--is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes loss of muscle control and death within two to five years of diagnosis. Robert Packard, an investment banker in San Francisco, was diagnosed with ALS in November 1999, at the age of 41. He died of the disease less than a year later, in August 2000.
Because current treatments are limited, the newly named center was created to bring together more than 100 leading scientists from Hopkins and elsewhere to focus efforts and improve efficiency in ALS research. "The center is an extremely visionary way of focusing resources to combat one of the least understood and most devastating of human diseases," says Edward Miller, CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine and dean of the School of Medicine.
William R. Brody, president of the university, says, "The Robert Packard Foundation's investment in ALS research at Hopkins will help attract other interest and investments. It will secure the center's future in helping find a cure for ALS."
Working in a worldwide collaboration, center scientists hope to translate new knowledge as quickly as possible into potential therapies, says center director Jeffrey Rothstein.
"The center empowers researchers to aggressively and collaboratively tackle ALS, and the results will likely be applicable to some other neurodegenerative disorders as well," says Rothstein, a professor of neurology and neuroscience in the School of Medicine.
"Among other projects, center researchers are pursuing the identification and study of new ALS genes, development of novel therapeutics and seeing how stem cells might be applied to this devastating disease."
Over the span of four years, the center has awarded more than $3 million to fund more than 23 research projects determined most promising by a panel of ALS scientists. The Baltimore Orioles provided $2 million in seed money to help initiate the center. Donations from the Robert Packard Foundation and the Emily Davis and Joseph S. Kornfeld Foundation provided funds to the center in early 2000.
For more about the center and its work, go to www.alscenter.org.