Marines go the distance for Med School

While there were approximately 19,000 participants in this year’s Marine Corps Marathon, seven of the competitors held a special significance for medical research at Yale.

Collectively, those seven runners raised over $300,000 for Destination Cure, a nonprofit organization that facilitates fundraising for multiple sclerosis — a severely debilitating neurological disease, which affects nearly one million Americans — by running in the marathon held in Quantico, Va. last month. All of the funds raised for Destination Cure will be directed toward multiple sclerosis research and a prominent beneficiary will be the Department of Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine.

The Yale Center for Neuroscience and Regeneration Research, founded in 1988, researches multiple sclerosis and recovery of function after spinal injury. The center’s high level of collaboration between different professionals separates it from other similar institutions, Lakshmi Bangalore, the center’s scientific liaison officer, said.

“We have neuroscientists, biologists, physiologists and pharmacologists all working together toward one goal — finding a cure,” Bangalore said.

The research center receives government funding but relies on private donations to initiate projects. In addition to Destination Cure, the United Spinal Association and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society provide financial assistance for studies.

“While the bulk of money for medical research at the Med School comes from NIH, feed money to begin research is needed for securing further NIH grants, and often comes from private donations,” Yale School of Medicine Dean Robert Alpern said.

While it is uncertain how much of the money raised by the Marines the center will receive, Bangalore said the Neurology Department is excited about the prospect of further funding. The money will allow researchers to begin new studies and present the center’s scientists with an opportunity to be creative and innovative with their investigations, she said.

New studies must present viable data prior to obtaining grants from the National Institutes of Health, and without philanthropic donations, these studies cannot be initiated, said Dr. Stephen Waxman, chair and director of the Department of Neurology. He said NIH and Destination Cure are not in competition with each other but complement one another.

“Yale can attract private organizations like Destination Cure because Yale attracts the most creative and energetic researchers,” Waxman said. “This is research aimed at society and we view Destination Cure as a partner in the process.”

While a cure for multiple sclerosis is still far off, progress continues to be made due to the generosity of donors, Waxman said. He said Destination Cure’s funding for the School of Medicine is also used to recruit promising students to the research center, and the money allows for the purchase of new equipment that expedites the research process.

Waxman said he plans to attend a celebration in Washington, D.C. honoring the Marine Corps marathon team Nov. 20.

“We can’t do our work without them [Destination Cure],” he said. “They are angels.”

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