Ever since the 2004 founding of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, the vision and generosity of individual donors has been and continues to be our largest and most stable source of support. The Institute was launched with a major challenge grant from a Harvard Law School alumnus and his wife, who believed in the promise of stem cell research and its power to transform medicine. A recent major gift from Harvard Business School alumnus Ronald Agel most generously continues this philanthropic tradition.
Agel has donated $1 million to establish the Ronald C. Agel Innovation Fund for Alzheimer’s Research. He has established the fund to “enable Harvard Stem Cell Science to move the field of Alzheimer’s research in exciting and promising new directions to identify better treatments for the disease.” For its first two years, the Fund is being used to support a research project headed by Kevin Eggan, PhD, a member of HSCI’s Principal Faculty and a professor in Harvard’s Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology.
Eggan’s team is using skin samples from patients with either familial or sporadic Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) to unlock the genetic and developmental mysteries of the disease. The cells in these skin samples will be transformed into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) in order to produce disease-specific cell lines capable of later being developed into neurons. The neurons will be extensively analyzed to generate genetic and molecular characterizations to identify potential AD-related networks. The work will lead to screening for drugs that may act therapeutically on these cells, and if those efforts succeed, a mouse model will be developed to determine if the drugs have similar beneficial effects in a biological system.
Agel is a founder and owner of the estate planning firm Agel Associates in Boston, and has served on the Statewide Advisory Committee and the Board of Directors for the Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.