In recognition of the critical need for new treatments for ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund—formerly known as the UMass ALS Champion Fund—is a movement to drive awareness and funding for the ALS breakthroughs happening at UMass Medical School (UMMS) and in the laboratory of Robert H. Brown, Jr., DPhil, MD, one of the world’s leading and most promising ALS researchers.
The Cellucci Fund aims to help Dr. Brown and his colleagues pursue ALS research leads and breakthroughs right now that might otherwise take years to attract funding from traditional sources. As a result, this Fund will make researchers at UMMS better prepared to “seize the moment” when highly promising ALS discoveries are made.
In 2011, UMMS and Dr. Brown were joined in this effort by former Governor of Massachusetts and Ambassador to Canada, A. Paul Cellucci. Governor Cellucci announced that January that he had been diagnosed with ALS and was being treated at UMMS by Dr. Brown. News of Cellucci’s diagnosis sparked an outpouring of support from friends and colleagues across the Commonwealth and the country, including fellow former governors and other elected officials. Governor Cellucci chose to use his story as a catalyst to support ALS research at Massachusetts’ public Medical School through the establishment of the UMass ALS Champion Fund, now the Cellucci Fund.
“I am proud to continue my career in public service by leading the UMass ALS Champion Fund,” Cellucci said in at the time. “A champion helps to deliver great victories, and Dr. Brown is a true champion of ALS research. But, victories are a team effort. Dr. Brown and his colleagues at UMass Medical School need our support.” Cellucci died from complications of the disease on June 8, 2013. He was 65. In 2014, the fund was renamed the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund to honor his commitment to this cause.
Dr. Brown, the Leo P. and Theresa M. LaChance Chair in Medical Research and chair of the Department of Neurology at UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial Medical Center, is widely recognized as a pioneer in neurodegenerative disease research and for more than 30 years has dedicated his career to unlocking the secrets of ALS, a degenerative disorder that causes progressive muscle weakness, leading to paralysis and eventually death. There is currently no treatment to stop or reverse ALS. Dr. Brown has been a leading visionary for ALS treatment and part of nearly every fundamental ALS breakthrough to-date, including the identification of mutations in a gene that is responsible for the rare, familial form of the disease. Dr. Brown’s work has opened a window into ALS that has drastically changed the research landscape and provided patients and loved ones touched by ALS with something very rare: hope.
The Cellucci Fund aims to extend and supplement the already great fundraising initiatives benefiting UMMS. Dr. Brown and team has been fortunate to receive support from a diversity of groups, including the Massachusetts-based Angel Fund and national partner CVS Pharmacy, both of which have been raising money for UMMS and acting as champions in the fight against ALS for more than 10 years. The Cellucci Fund will complement and extend those funding sources to augment the overall effort..
Now is the time. There is hope. But, victories are a team effort. Join us in the fight back against ALS.