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Philanthropist John Moores Gives $2 Million To The Scripps Research Institute To Develop River Blindness Field Test

LA JOLLA, Calif., March 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Philanthropist, businessman and community leader John Moores has given The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) approximately $2 million to fund the development of a new field test for Onchocerciasis, or river blindness, a parasitic infection that affects tens of millions of people in Africa, Latin America and other tropical regions.

"We are grateful for John's generosity and foresight," said Michael A. Marletta, president and CEO of TSRI. "This gift has the potential to revolutionize treatment of a disease that causes widespread suffering in the developing world. We are fortunate to have John as a long-time supporter who recognizes the impact our science can have to improve human health."

Moores, former chair of the TSRI Board of Trustees, has been a leader in the fight against worm-carried conditions. In 2005, he founded the Worm Institute of Research and Medicine (WIRM) at TSRI with a $4 million gift. Previously, Moores founded the River Blindness Foundation to distribute a treatment in developing countries, principally in sub-Saharan Africa; in 1997, the foundation was absorbed into The Carter Center of Atlanta, where Moores is trustee emeritus.

Breakthrough Results

Moores's new gift to TSRI follows the publication of breakthrough results from the laboratory of Professor Kim D. Janda, who is director of WIRM, Ely R. Callaway, Jr. Chair and member of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at TSRI. In the new study ( PNAS, February 25, 2013, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1221969110) [ http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/02/21/1221969110.abstract], the team identified a biomarker, detectable in patients' urine, that is secreted by Onchocerca volvulus worms during an active infection.

"For this to be of value in Third World countries we need to morph this biomarker into something that's inexpensive, simple to use, tolerant of extreme temperatures and portable—basically distilling our finding to a test that can be carted around in a backpack," said Janda. "This new gift will make that possible."

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