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$2 Million Gift Supports Parkinson's Research at Duke

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

DURHAM, N.C. - Charles C. Roberts of DeKalb, Ill., and family are giving $2 million to support Parkinson's disease research at Duke University Medical Center, Duke President Nannerl O. Keohane announced today.

The Roberts' gift will go to the Duke Deane Laboratories, a neurosciences research center established in 1995 through a gift from Carol and Disque Deane of Boston. The Deane Laboratories are dedicated to biochemical and cellular research in the quest for new treatments for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's and other diseases, including epilepsy.

Roberts' children, John T. Roberts of Indianapolis, Ind., Doug C. Roberts of Sycamore, Ill., and Virginia Roberts Holt of Northbrook, Ill., are equal partners in the family's gift.

"We are deeply grateful for the Roberts' generosity and farsightedness in supporting basic science research at Duke," said Dr. Ralph Snyderman, chancellor for health affairs and president and CEO of the Duke Health System. "Private philanthropy can make the difference that allows our researchers to take basic research to the point where the ultimate payoff - better treatments for disease - is realized."

Parkinson's disease is an incurable neurodegenerative disorder that affects more than 1 million Americans. Until the 1960s, when the biochemical changes that cause Parkinson's were identified, there was no effective treatment. Current treatments can reduce symptoms but do not stop the deterioration of brain cells.

Duke researchers have discovered one gene that indicates susceptibility to Parkinson's and are searching for others. At the Deane Labs, investigators are discovering how proteins made by these genes produce Parkinson's disease.

Ultimately, the goal is to develop practical drug therapies that target the molecular mechanisms of Parkinson's within the neurons themselves.

"Our overall objective is developing new therapies," says Dr. Warren Strittmatter, director and chief of Duke's Division of Neurology. "This is a very promising time in basic science. Partners like the Roberts family will help us to capitalize on a wealth of new information that will lead to better treatments for people who suffer from neurological disease."

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