UConn Health has received a gift of $3 million from Ray ’56 (CLAS) and Carole Neag, the University’s most generous benefactors, to expand its groundbreaking research on genomics-guided cancer treatment, which has great promise for developing innovative therapies for fighting the disease.
The gift, which was announced April 12 at UConn Health’s annual fundraising event, the White Coat Gala, will support research at the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center to develop new medical treatments tailored to each patient’s unique genetic makeup.
“UConn Health is pioneering the science of personalized medicine across a wide spectrum of diseases and conditions. The generosity of our great friends, Carole and Ray Neag, will foster research in the area of personalized treatments for cancer, providing hope and cure for our region and beyond,” says Dr. Frank M. Torti, UConn Health’s executive vice president for health affairs, dean of the UConn School of Medicine, and a nationally prominent physician-scientist in cancer research.
The gift will be used to establish the Neag Cancer Immunology Translational Research Program in the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center at UConn Health, and to support clinical trials and supporting activities in cancer immunology based on original research at UConn Health.
“This gift is yet another example of the thoughtful and visionary generosity so characteristic of Carole and Ray Neag,” says Dr. Pramod Srivastava, director of the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Through it, they are not only supporting us, but also challenging us to rise to the demands of our times and fulfill one of our core missions, research.”
Srivastava says the gift will enable UConn to become a national leader in personalized, genomics-guided immunotherapy of human cancer, while recognizing the traditional excellence of cancer immunotherapy at UConn Health. Srivastava, who will become the director of the Neag Cancer Immunology Translational Research Program, is launching a clinical trial later this year using patients’ own DNA to create personalized treatments for ovarian cancer.
“The concept of success in the treatment of cancer is extremely personal,” says Carole Neag. “Through research and individualized therapies, a bright beacon is shining through.”
The Neag gift advances the Bioscience CT initiative, which was approved by the state legislature in 2011 to significantly expand bioscience research and education at UConn Health and across the University.
Thanks to rapid advances in technology, it is possible to identify a person’s unique genome or collection of genes, which differ from person to person by millions of variations. Researchers believe many of these variations affect an individual’s susceptibility to disease and response to treatment. Greater understanding of individual genomes is allowing scientists to begin to individualize treatment and prevention strategies tailored to each patient’s unique genome.
The Neags are the most generous donors in the history of the University, making transformative gifts to the Neag School of Education, and to UConn Health to establish the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center. They have also given generously of their time, serving on boards and committees for both the University and the Foundation.
Ray Neag, a 1956 graduate of UConn, is the retired co-founder, vice chairman, and director of Arrow International Inc. UConn honored him with an honorary doctor of laws degree in 2001.