URMC Receives $1 Million for Neuromuscular Research Fund

January 04, 2001

A prominent local entrepreneur has generously donated $1 million to the University of Rochester Medical Center for the establishment of the Saunders Family Neuromuscular Research Fund. This gift, from E. Philip and Carole Saunders of Dansville, New York, will enable the Medical Center's faculty and staff to conduct outstanding scientific research, which will quickly translate into clinical treatments for patients with neuromuscular conditions.

"We are thrilled that the Saunders family has chosen to support our institution's research efforts through this extremely generous gift," says Jay H. Stein, M.D., senior vice president and vice provost for Health Affairs and Strong Health CEO. "This grant comes at an opportune time - at a time when we are on the threshold of major advances in fighting the numerous human diseases that cause progressive paralysis and other neuromuscular disorders. With the Saunders family's support, we will be able to continue making substantial improvements to the health care of so many."

The Saunders Neuromuscular Fund will help catapult the Medical Center's Neuromuscular Research Center into a position of international leadership, says Stein. The grant monies will be applied towards the advances that the Center continues to make in understanding the molecular biology of neuromuscular disease. Through genetic engineering, University researchers have already developed animal models to study human paralytic diseases such as myotonic dystrophy, the most common form of muscular dystrophy. It is these models which will make it possible to subsequently develop new therapies for neuromuscular diseases in humans.

Saunders and his family have a long-standing commitment to the Medical Center's Department of Neurology, and deep admiration for Richard Moxley, M.D., director of the Neuromuscular Center. Moxley is an internationally recognized authority in neuromuscular disease. He has helped to develop prednisone as an effective treatment in Duchenne dystrophy, has participated in the discovery of certain forms of myotonic muscle diseases, and has worked for over 25 years to identify the cause for and treatment of the muscle wasting in myotonic dystrophy, the most common type of muscular dystrophy.

Recently Moxley and his group received a NIH award to establish a National Registry of Patients with Myotonic Dystrophy and Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy. This award recognizes the accomplishments of the Neuromuscular Center at URMC and will facilitate future research throughout our country. Moxley has treated two Saunders family members for neuromuscular conditions over the years.

Saunders is the CEO of American Rock Salt and vice chairman of Genesee Regional Bank. He is the former cchairman and CEO of Griffith Energy, Travelports of America, and a subsidiary of theSugar Creek Corporation. In 1981, he established the Sugar Creek Stores, Inc.,a convenience store chain and retailer of gasoline petroleum products, which he established in 1981. A generous supporter of the community, he washas been recentlyhonored by the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce and the Livingston County Development Corporation for his exemplary leadership in business, government, and community service.

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