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J.K. Rowling’s Latest Gift: $18.8M to MS Research

In 1990, J.K. Rowling‘s mother, Anne Rowling, passed away at the age of 45 after a decade-long struggle with multiple sclerosis (MS). In MS, the immune system attacks the myelin, the protective sheath on each neuron, causing them to break down and become unable to relay information. It has a wide array of symptoms, including neurological pain, paralysis, and loss of vision. In 1990, the medical community didn’t know this. To this day, there is no cure for multiple sclerosis.

In 2010, when J.K. Rowling was 45 years old, she donated £10 million ($12.5m) to the University of Edinburgh to found an MS clinic. The Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic opened there in January 2013, with a mission of furthering research and treatment by connecting clinical trials to patients.

Since the clinic’s founding, many advances in MS research have been made. In 2017, the FDA in the US approved ocrelizumab, the first drug to treat primary-progressive MS and shown to dramatically slow the progress of the disease. And while it’s not a cure, it’s still a huge breakthrough.

On Thursday, September 12, J.K. Rowling  made another donation to her mother’s memorial clinic and the University of Edinburgh. This time, she donated £15.3 million ($18.8m).

“When the Anne Rowling Clinic was first founded, none of us could have predicted the incredible progress that would be made in the field of Regenerative Neurology, with the Clinic leading the charge,” said Rowling. “I am delighted to now support the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic into a new phase of discovery and achievement, as it realizes its ambition to create a legacy of better outcomes for generations of people with MS and non-MS neurodegenerative diseases.”

“This inspiring donation will fund a whole new generation of researchers who are focused on discovering and delivering better treatments and therapies for patients,” said Professor Peter Mathieson, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Edinburgh.

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USAID and UC Davis Launch Rural Poverty Research Program

The University of California, Davis, has introduced a new research program aimed at eradicating rural poverty in developing countries. The program, called Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk and Resilience (MRR), is being funded by a five-year grant of up to $30 million from USAID.

“USAID’s investment in this new Feed the Future Innovation Lab will expand our ability to work with communities and countries that face the greatest risks in today’s dynamic world,” said Gregory Collins, USAID Resilience Coordinator and deputy assistant administrator in the USAID Bureau for Food Security. “By drawing on the innovation and research expertise at UC Davis, this lab will accelerate opportunities for people in vulnerable, crisis-prone areas of the world and enable many more families to escape the grip of hunger and poverty for good.”

The program will focus on the root causes of poverty, with an emphasis on the risks posed by disasters such as droughts, floods, and wars.

“As global development efforts continue to improve, we still see humanitarian disasters that strip rural families and communities of hard-won gains,” said Michael Carter, professor of agricultural and resource economics at UC Davis and director of the MRR Innovation Lab. “We will provide needed evidence on how to accelerate those gains and to ensure they stick.”

The objective is to develop resilience within these communities so that families are equipped with the skills and resources needed in order to persevere in times of hardship. Researchers are also hoping that the information gleaned from this study can be applied to U.S. farms and reduce the cost of foreign aid.

“We have an opportunity right now to build toward a new Green Revolution,” said Carter. “Our new Innovation Lab will join a global community of researchers, governments and private sector partners all working diligently to find better ways to promote prosperity and resilience for all families.”

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Health Organizations Team Up To Fund Blood Cancer Research

Three leading health organizations—the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Mark Foundation for Cancer Research, and the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group—have joined forces to find a cure for blood cancer.

Each organization contributed $1.5 million to the LLS Blood Cancer Discoveries Grants Program, a newly established fund dedicated to advancing the medical community’s understanding of these diseases. Over the next three years, the program will award up to six grants of $750,000 to projects focused on blood cancer research.

“These grants represent a significant investment in cancer discovery research that has a clear line of sight to better outcomes for patients,” said Michele Cleary, CEO of the Mark Foundation for Cancer Research. “In collaboration with our partners at LLS and the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, the Mark Foundation is pleased to help address the critical need for this type of funding, and we look forward to seeing the results of the science it will support.”

Experts estimate that 176,200 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma, or myeloma in 2019. That equates to roughly one person every three minutes. The number of deaths caused by these diseases is expected to be 56,770 in 2019 alone.

“LLS’s investment in research over the past fifteen years is translating into remarkable improvements in outcomes for blood cancer patients,” said Lee Greenberger, chief scientific officer at LLS. “Over the past two and a half years alone, we’ve seen the FDA approve 48 therapies in the blood cancers, and LLS’s investment in research played a role in 42 of these. However, cures still remain elusive for many aggressive blood cancers. This new program, made possible through this collaboration, seeks to ignite that next wave of discoveries and fill the pipeline that eventually will become the translational research of the next five to 10 years.”

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Big Donation is Made to Seattle Children’s

Seattle's Children
IMG: via Seattle Met

It means a lot to give back, especially when it comes to helping children in need.  Recently Jack MacDonald gave the largest gift Seattle Children’s Research Institute has ever received in its 106 years.  He donated $75.04 million through a charitable trust to fund pediatric research.

Not only is it the biggest gift the hospital has received, but it’s also the largest known donation to a U.S. children’s hospital for pediatric research.  Jack wanted to reach out to organizations that meant something to him.  Other groups that received a portion of his $187.6 million trust were the University of Washington School of Law and the Salvation Army.

Every year the organizations will benefit from income earned by the trust.  Children’s will get 40 percent of the annual income.  That means about $3.75 in the first year.  The money will be spent at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

The hope for all involved is that Seattle Children’s will come up with better ways to treat or even cure childhood diseases all around the world.

According to his friend Lorraine del Prado, “Jack was a very kind man. One thing that was very special about him was the constant smile on his face.  Perhaps it reflected how content he was in his life, with the simplicity of his needs, and how much he enjoyed being a caretaker of his family’s assets that would later be used to bring good to the world by helping those in need.”

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Phony Charities

Scam
IMG: via Shutterstsock

How many times have you gotten that annoying email from a “Nigerian Prince” who just has to give you millions of dollars?  If you just send him your bank account and social security number and some DNA from your first born child, the deal will be sealed.

Unfortunately, scams are everywhere.  As much as we would like to think that people are all good, honest citizens, there are plenty who will not hesitate to fool you.  In the process, they will try to take your money and even your identity.

So, how do you spot a phony charity?  There are several things to look for.  Be wary of giving out any personal information over the phone.  It’s easy for someone to call you up and impersonate a legitimate organization.  How do you know if they’re really from the Red Cross if they are on the phone?

Second, ask for credentials.  Ask for a number you can call to verify their legitimacy.  Get their website address, supervisor’s name and EIN number (a number filed with the IRS). Call the Better Business Bureau to see if they have ever had any complaints filed against them.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Avoid pushy people.  If they seem to be pressuring you to make a donation right away, run away.  What’s the rush?  Why do they need your money this instant?  That’s a red flag that something is not right.

Today’s fraudsters can look like anybody and everybody.  They may be well-spoken, well-dressed and may even claim to know your relatives.  Don’t fall for it just because they look and sound good.

Be aware that scams can take place over the phone, in the mail, via email or in person.  The perpetrators of this type of crime will make every effort to look, sound or seem real.

We’re not saying you should lose all faith in humanity.  Just be smart about your charitable giving.  Doing a little research to find out if an organization is legitimate will give you peace of mind in the long run.