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$1 Million Gift for Stem Cell Research – Largest Private Donation Ever

By Lauren Stanforth, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, August 11, 2006

The University of Rochester Medical Center just received the largest private donation ever from a Brighton couple to put toward stem cell research.

The couple, Jack (founder of Erdle Corp. in Henrietta) and Norma, did not indicate what variety of stem cell research the donated funds, an sum of $1 million dollars, should be used for.

Prior to Jack’s gift, UR had received some contributions towards stem cell research, but the quantity of donations were not many and each individually were not of a significant amount stated Peter.

Stem cells are the building block cells of all our organs and tissues.

The university inquired about the prospect of Jack contributing; so he went to his wife to see how she would like the money used. She quickly gave her answer.

The couple also donated $1 million to the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1998.

Jack’s company, which he started in the mid-1950’s, makes parts for electrical systems in computer, trains, and airplanes.

"I think there are so many diseases and sicknesses that could be helped with stem cell research — diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, people who are paralyzed," said Norma. "Just think how wonderful it would be, the lives we could save."

The National Institutes of Health have given more than $40 million to The University of Rochester Medical Center to pursue stem cell research that may lead to cures for leukemia, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injury.

For the institute, the principal focus has been on animal and adult stem cell based research, as well as stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood due to the federal ban on funding new embryonic stem cell lines.

The NIH mandates that any federally funded programs share no resources with independently funded embryonic research, thus there is a possibility that the university may use a portion of the $1 million to produce the proper environment for research. Peter hopes the couple’s gift will encourage other philanthropists to also donate to stem cell research.

"Downstate medical centers have received millions," Peter said about their stem cell donations, adding:

"It's good Rochester is now in that company as result of Jack and Norma’s gift."


 

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