An anonymous $US20 million gift from a racehorse breeder has rounded out a remarkable fundraising effort to build a state-of-the-art regenerative medicine research facility at Colorado State University which will, among other things, help advance equine stem-cell therapy.
The latest gift gets the fundraising tally to $US65 million – the sum needed to make the project a reality.
In December 2014, philanthropists John and Leslie Malone gave a record $US42.5 million gift to the university to develop a regenerative medicine facility, having been inspired in part by the stem-cell treatments their dressage horses received to help repair stressed and injured joints.
The Malones’ gift provided $US10 million to assist with the first five years of operation and $US32.5 million for construction of a building to house the facility, which will feature laboratories, specialized surgical suites, and conference space for veterinarians and physicians.
Their gift required an additional $US32.5 million in matching donations to be raised for building construction.
The university confirmed this week that the target of $US32.5 million in matching donations had now been reached. It took just over a year, with the $US20 million gift from the anonymous donor and $US12.5 million coming from other donors and the university.
The new Institute for Biologic Translational Therapies promises to tap the body’s healing powers for innovative treatments that improve animal and human health. It will develop next-generation remedies based on living cells and their products. These include patient-derived stem cells to treat musculoskeletal disease and other ailments.
Building will begin later this year. An exact date has yet to be set.
University president Tony Frank said: “We are deeply grateful for another tremendous gift to help establish the institute.
“This support, combined with the transformational gift from John and Leslie Malone, will advance Colorado State’s work in a new era of veterinary and translational medicine.”
Staff in the Orthopaedic Research Center, part of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, developed the vision for the institute as part of their focus on equine musculoskeletal problems. Other Colorado State University faculty members with interests in regenerative medicine then became involved.
Colorado State veterinarians are experts at investigating medical treatments for animal patients, then providing knowledge gained to boost human medical advancements. This progression is known as translational medicine and is successful because of similarities in animal and human physiology and disease.
The leader in planning the new research institute has been New Zealand-born Dr Wayne McIlwraith, an international pioneer of arthroscopic surgery and joint disease research in horses.
McIlwraith is the founding director of the Orthopaedic Research Center and has worked with other faculty in the center to pursue regenerative treatments to augment surgery and to hasten recovery from injury and joint disease. These include stem-cell and gene therapy, specialized tissue replacement and use of novel proteins.
McIlwraith and his veterinary colleagues have treated joint problems in horses owned by the Malones and by the anonymous donor.
“We are very thankful for these supporters, who have seen the potential for regenerative therapies in the successful treatment of equine athletes,” McIlwraith said.
He said the new institute would propel the university’s work in investigating regenerative therapies for a wide range of disease.
“This institute will be distinguished for working from laboratory inception to commercialization under one roof,” he said. “We will work from the outset of each project with the goal of translating therapeutic knowledge from animals to people.”