Danforth Foundation donates $10 million for neurodegenerative research

The Danforth Foundation has granted the Hope Center for Neurological Disorders at the School of Medicine a $10 million endowed gift for research into a range of conditions that cause injury and impairment to the brain and central nervous system.

The funds will be used to support innovative and groundbreaking new ideas for research with clear potential to improve diagnosis and treatment of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, stroke, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and other disorders.

The endowment created by the gift will be named for the late Donald Danforth Jr., a 1955 graduate of the Olin Business School who was executive vice president of Ralston-Purina Co. Danforth was the brother of Chancellor Emeritus William H. Danforth, M.D., former U.S. Senator John Danforth and St. Louisan Dorothy Danforth Miller.

WUSTL and Hope Happens have committed to raising additional matching endowed funds of $10 million for the same research programs over the next five years. The Hope Center was created in 2004 as a partnership between WUSTL and Hope Happens, a public charity started by Christopher Hobler, who lost his life to ALS in 2005.

“This gift is an outstanding example of how Washington University, Hope Happens and the St. Louis community continue to benefit from the generosity and leadership of the Danforths and the Danforth Foundation,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said. “As science develops a new generation of treatments for some of society’s most devastating disorders, this donation and the mandate for additional fundraising that comes with it help ensure that Washington University and the Hope Center remain at the forefront of the field in research that will alleviate suffering and find solutions for earlier diagnosis and treatment.”

“The support of the Danforth family has been at the center of so much that is good at Washington University,” said Mark P. Goldberg, M.D., professor of neurology, of neurobiology and of biomedical engineering and director of the Hope Center. “In particular, the family has been enthusiastic supporters of the Hope Center since its beginning. This new gift will be incredibly helpful in advancing one of our primary missions: funding innovative new directions in diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders.”

“As a physician, William Danforth knows what an important front these terrible conditions present in the battle for improved health and longevity,” said Larry J. Shapiro, M.D., executive vice chancellor of medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “The Danforth Foundation’s generous new gift recognizes the bench-to-bedside research model we’ve fostered here at the School of Medicine through our BioMed 21 program as one of the best hopes for new treatments and cures for these disorders.”

“This gift in honor of my brother, Don, means a lot to the family,” said William H. Danforth, who is a member of the foundation board. “We all have great hopes that the discoveries of the wonderful scientific leaders of the Hope Center will help halt and prevent ALS and similar devastating diseases.”

The Hope Center helps support the studies of more than 70 faculty and 500 scientists with shared research facilities and annual distribution of seed grants.