Foundations give Pitt $100,000 for ALS research

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The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has received a $100,000 grant to fund research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the neurodegenerative disease also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

The gift is a joint one, with half the funds coming from The Pittsburgh Foundation and half from, a donor advised fund of the foundation that was founded in March of 2012 by Neil and Suzanne Alexander of O'Hara.

"We want to give them the resources for their next, best idea," said Mr. Alexander, 48, who was diagnosed with ALS in June 2011.

The grant will support the work being done by Robert Friedlander, chairman of the Neurological Surgery department at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Friedlander believes effective treatment for diseases such as ALS and Huntington's disease could require a multi-drug regimen, and he has proposed a two-phase study of the mechanisms that cause cell death and then identify and test drugs that will prevent it.

The grant covers the cost, for two years, of hiring a postgraduate research associate to work with Dr. Friedlander.

The research grant is the latest initiative of The disease attacks the motor neurons, leading to eventual paralysis and difficulty swallowing and breathing. ALS, on average, causes death two to five years after diagnosis.

The Alexanders started, named after the New York Yankee who died from ALS, to raise awareness of the disease, to support care of ALS patients in Western Pennsylvania and to fund research into a treatment for the disease, which still has no cure or effective treatment.

The organization, since its founding, has raised $560,000 through events such as bike rides and golf tournaments. has used the money it has raised to direct funding to patient care through the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the ALS Association and establish a college scholarship fund for children of people with ALS, among other initiatives.

The latest grant "provides substantial funding we believe will help to advance medical research into this devastating disease," said John Ellis, spokesman for The Pittsburgh Foundation, which has supported since its inception.

"The foundation also recognizes and commends Neil, himself an ALS sufferer, and his family, for their courage and determination in successfully bringing to the forefront public awareness of ALS, with the aim of furthering treatment and knowledge of the disease," Mr. Ellis said.

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This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707. First Published October 7, 2013 12:15 PM


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