BENEFITING: BROAD INSTITUTE INC
“It’s an incredibly special thing to have 20 years’ advance notice to work like hell to change the fate that you’ve been given” – Eric Minikel
Sonia Vallabh and Eric Minikel were newlyweds in their late 20s, nurturing successful careers in law and consulting, when tragedy struck. Sonia's mother, only 51 years old, suddenly began to show signs of dementia. Within a few months, she died of progressively severe dementia. Shortly after her death, Sonia learned that her mother had died from prion disease, a 100% fatal and untreatable brain disease caused by the malfunction of a brain protein. Sonia also learned that she inherited the mutation that causes this disease, meaning that unless a treatment or cure is developed, she will succumb to the same fate as her mother within the next 20 years.
While most people would descend into despair, Sonia and Eric decided to take action. They quit their jobs, began furiously studying science and took jobs interning in laboratories. With a single-minded focus on curing prion disease, within a few years they began PhD programs at Harvard Medical School and joined the Broad Institute in Cambridge, MA, a leading institute studying genetics, cancer, and rare diseases. They received a grant for emerging scientists called BroadIgnite, which allowed them to build the first lab to study prion disease in Cambridge. They have begun developing a human cell model of prion disease and studying healthy prion proteins in hopes of discovering ways to treat prion disease.
Where will my donation go?
- Your donation will go directly to the Broad Institute, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit research organization. Donations are 100% tax deductible to the extent allowed by law
- Funds will directly benefit Sonia and Eric's research into prion disease, including laboratory supplies, chemical libraries, and equipment to analyze, clone, and sequence human cells.
Why donate to prion disease research?
- Orphan illnesses are not well funded by pharma due to lack of profit incentive.
- Studies have linked brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and ALS to misfolded proteins and prion-like activity.
- Enormous costs of dementia - $800 billion worldwide, growing rapidly as baby boomers age.
- Prion disease traces to a single gene and a single protein, making it a uniquely tractable test case for developing therapies for neurodegenerative diseases.
- Potential to be leader in gene therapeutic technologies which may help cure other heritable diseases.
For more information on Sonia and Eric’s mission:
CBS News video segment: http://cbsn.ws/236XR52
Broad Instititute bios: http://broad.io/prions
Boston Globe article: http://bit.ly/1mSUnmo
Harvard Magazine article: http://bit.ly/1RJ3l4a
The Atlantic article: http://theatln.tc/18RmtrH
New Yorker article: http://bit.ly/1HTIdO1
Prion Alliance: http://www.prionalliance.org/