University Alumni Donate $7.5M to Support Research Into MS, Like Diseases

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by Steve Bryson, PhD |

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John and Catherine Seibyl, both alumni of Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Ohio, have pledged $7.5 million to the university to advance multidisciplinary research into multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neurodegenerative diseases.

The funds will be shared strategically between CWRU’s School of Medicine and the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, improving the university’s ability to ”create ripple effects,” Catherine Seibyl said, that benefit people with these diseases.

“For us, philanthropy is the art of recognizing in humanity an essential connectedness which, in our giving, we raise up in the celebration of creating new possibilities,” Catherine Seibyl said in a press release. “This gift affirms the past by laying plans for the future.”

After graduating from CWRU, John Seibyl joined Yale University’s School of Medicine and went on to serve as chief of the section of nuclear medicine. He then co-founded the Institute for Neurodegenerative Disorders, an independent nonprofit, as well as the company Molecular Neuroimaging (now Invicro, owned by Konica-Minolta).

Neuroimaging is critical in diseases such as MS, used to monitor damage to the myelin sheath that surrounds and protects nerve fibers, and to determine the effectiveness of therapies.

Catherine Seibyl was employed as a pediatric nurse practitioner, supervised residential treatment programs for military veterans, and engaged in epidemiological research.

“John and Cathy Seibyl already have done so much for so many through their respective professions,” said Scott Cowen, CWRU’s interim president. “This commitment further extends their impact by encouraging interdisciplinary efforts around neurodegenerative disease. We are deeply grateful for this opportunity to make a meaningful difference for people with multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.”

Of the $7.5 million gift, $2 million will support the John Seibyl, MD, professorship in Neurodegenerative Research within the School of Medicine. An additional $2 million will fund the Catherine Seibyl professorship in Nursing, Research, and Caregiving.

“This transformative gift … represents a turning point in our ability to aid individuals experiencing or at risk for neurodegeneration across the age spectrum,” said Stan Gerson, interim dean for CWRU’s School of Medicine. “By linking efforts in basic research to translational models of disease — informing clinical input and clinical investigation with an emphasis on caregivers and wellbeing — will benefit our entire community. We will unite the School of Medicine, Engineering, and Nursing to coordinate this cutting-edge research.”

The John and Catherine Seibyl Fund for Neurodegeneration Innovation in Research, Care, and Education will be established to support multidisciplinary research and training in neurodegenerative diseases within the two schools. Here, a total of $2.5 million will promote the understanding, enhance education, and improve patient treatment and care.

The remaining $1 million will establish two endowed funds — the Catherine Seibyl fellowship at the nursing school, and the John Seibyl, MD, fellowship at the medical school. These funds will help in training a new generation of scientists conducting research into brain health.

“At some point, we might look back and consider, however immeasurable, whether we were fortunate enough to have done more benefit than harm, that the world might be slightly better by the light of our presence, and in the end smile, knowing our work was good,” John Seibyl said.

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