ANN ARBOR, Mich. Twenty years ago, retail pioneer and philanthropist A. Alfred Taubman lost a good friend to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis a horrifying fatal disease thats better known as Lou Gehrigs disease or ALS.
The memory of watching New York Sen. Jacob Javits slowly succumb to the nerve-killing condition has never left Mr. Taubmans mind. And that memory has motivated him to support ALS research at the University of Michigan Medical School and beyond.
Now, he has greatly increased that support, with a new $5 million gift, and the promise of even further funding when he also donates his share of the royalties from his new book, Threshold Resistance.
The gifts will go to support ALS studies led by U-M neurologist and scientist Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., whose lab has already received two $1 million gifts from Mr. Taubman. She is considered a national leader in ALS treatment and research, and heads the U-M Program for Neurology Research and Discovery.
Together with a team at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, led by Martin Marsala, M.D., associate professor of anesthesiology, Dr. Feldman and her team will work on several scientific fronts to try to stop or slow the disease. Working at first in animals, then in ALS patients, they hope to make quick progress.
Among the weapons they will deploy against ALS are genetic tools to keep nerve cells from dying, new ways of delivering promising drugs and genes directly into nerve cells, and a potential treatment based on injecting stem cells into the spinal cord. The latter approach, which will require the use of human embryonic stem cells, will be tested at UC San Diego where Dr. Marsala has received additional funding from the California Stem Cell Initiative for his work on spinal cord injury.
"It's hard to imagine a more devastating disease than ALS," says Mr. Taubman, "and we have some of the highest incidence rates in the country r
Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System