nerves

Building a strong foundation

Momentum continues for Alzheimer’s disease institute

Ann and Glenn Biggs wedding photo

Ann and Glenn Biggs were married almost 60 years when he died as a result of Alzheimer’s disease. Biggs, the founding development board chairman of the Health Science Center, was the inspiration behind the university’s quest to develop a comprehensive care center for patients with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, and their families. After his death in 2015, university officials announced they would name the institute in honor of Biggs. To learn more about the Biggs Institute for Alzheimer and Neurodegenerative Diseases, go to makelivesbetter.uthscsa.edu/biggs

With several million dollars in new gifts, momentum continues to grow for the Biggs Institute for Alzheimer and Neurodegenerative Diseases launched in September.

“This has been an effort our community has supported in an unprecedented way,” said Health Science Center President William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP.

Recent gifts include $3 million from the Greehey Family Foundation, $2 million from the Valero Energy Foundation, $1 million from the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation and $1 million from the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio, along with $1 million from the J.M.R. Barker Foundation that is an accelerated payment toward a $5 million pledge for the institute. He also announced a $1 million gift for Alzheimer’s disease research and patient care from an anonymous donor.

The Greehey Foundation gift will further cutting-edge research into the causes of and treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. The Valero Foundation gift supports care for patients with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, and provides important services for caregivers. The Kronkosky Foundation funding is for facilities and equipment and will establish a biorepository of tissue and blood specimens that is of critical importance to clinical trials. The Baptist Health Foundation gift endows a distinguished chair for the institute. The Barker Foundation gift is for recruitment of the new institute director that is now underway, Dr. Henrich said.

Total giving for the institute has grown to more than $24 million for endowments and more than $17 million from other gifts and support that will advance the institute and its faculty and programs.

“The Biggs Institute will provide early diagnosis and then coordinated patient- and family-centered care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, other dementias and other neurodegenerative diseases through all disease stages,” said Francisco González-Scarano, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine and executive vice president for medical affairs at the Health Science Center.

Dr. González, a neurologist, said the institute will lead basic, translational and clinical research studies, including clinical trials that benefit patients both immediately and in the future. Educating the next generation of clinicians, scientists and health professionals is another focus, because they will lead innovation in the treatment and prevention of neurodegenerative diseases.

The institute honors the memory of Glenn Biggs, the San Antonio philanthropist who was the founding chairman of the Health Science Center Development Board. Mr. Biggs, who died last May, had a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Glenn Biggs was the inspiration for our vision to establish the Institute for Alzheimer and Neurodegenerative Diseases, and we are committed to the promise we made to him and so many other families to see this vision achieved,” Dr. Henrich said.

The Biggs Institute will initiate patient and caregiver support services and enhance public awareness and community engagement about the diseases. It will build on the work already underway at the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, the aging research center at the Health Science Center. Research of neurodegeneration is an emphasis of the Barshop Institute.

“The community has invested in seeding a strong foundation that we have in the neurosciences,” Dr. Henrich said. “They have positioned us to be strategic in building a program that will support long term the tremendous need our community has for specialized care of the person with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases.”

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