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Research!America honors leaders in medical and health research advocacy

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- October 22, 2013 -- Research!America's 18th annual Advocacy Awards will honor extraordinary advocates of medical and health research who are distinguished in their commitment to advancing medicine and health. The event will take place on Wednesday, March 12, 2014, at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC, as a part of Research!America's 25th anniversary commemoration.

The 2014 Advocacy Award winners are actress Glenn Close and her family; Leroy Hood, MD, PhD, president, Institute for Systems Biology; Kathy Guisti, founder and CEO of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF); Reed Tuckson, MD, managing director, Tuckson Health Connections; and The Progeria Research Foundation (PRF). The winner of the Edwin C. Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy will be named by Research!America's Board of Directors later this year.

"This year's honorees have transformed the lives of many individuals across the country through their remarkable achievements and advocacy for medical and health research," said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. "Their unwavering dedication is helping to elevate research in the national conversation and inspire a new generation of advocates."

Glenn Close, the award-winning actress of Damages and Fatal Attraction, will be honored with Research!America's 2014 Isadore Rosenfeld Award for Impact on Public Opinion. Urged by her sister and nephew living with mental Illness, Close co-founded Bring Change 2 Mind, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to ending the stigmas and misunderstandings surrounding mental illness. Together, the Close family shares an inspiring message of recovery, managing illness and leading a productive life. Glenn's sister, Jessie, lived with undiagnosed bipolar disorder until the age of 50. She blogs about her personal experiences on the BC2M website and has written two books, The Warping of Al and the soon-to-be-released memoir, Resilience. Jessie's son Calen, a speaker and ambassador for BC2M, lives with schizophrenia. An artist living in Montana, he promotes artistic expression as a tool to help harness the creative powers commonly found among individuals with various forms of mental illness. After 11 years of undaunting courage, Calen now articulates the challenges of living life with a thought disorder. As an observer to her sister's and nephew's struggles, Glenn found the best way to help was to start the conversation. She shares her story of support for her sister and nephew, emphasizing the need for more conversation, empathy and understanding. Through the contributions of Bring Change 2 Mind, Glenn, Jessie and Calen prove that help begins with family.

Leroy Hood, MD, PhD, will be honored with Research!America's 2014 Geoffrey Beene Builders of Science Award for pioneering the development of instruments that paved the way for the successful mapping of the human genome. He was one of a small number of early and persistent advocates for the Human Genome Project. Prior to Dr. Hood's invention of the automated DNA sequencer, it took 30 years to sequence the genome of the cold virus, and the first gene cost $180 million to sequence. With Dr. Hood's remarkable achievement, it took less than a day to sequence the genome of the SARS virus and the cost of sequencing a gene is now just $6. A true scientific pioneer, Dr. Hood is credited with the development of the discipline of systems biology, which introduced the revolutionary concept to understand not only each biological network but also how the networks function together. This idea is now taught in many college and high school programs. Dr. Hood received the National Medal of Science from President Barack Obama at the White House in 2013, one of the highest scientific achievements.

Reed Tuckson, MD, managing director of Tuckson Health Connections, will be honored with Research!America's 2014 Raymond and Beverly Sackler Award for Sustained National Leadership for his lifelong commitment to advocating the benefits of evidence-based medicine to the public and policy-makers and for adoption of supporting policies that maintain a strong and sustained investment in research, including health services research. He regularly speaks to the media about the need for a strong and sustained U.S. investment in research and programmatic funding -- firmly believing that the goal of a healthier America is in everyone's best interests, from everyday Americans to members of Congress and to the business community. As executive vice president and chief of medical affairs at UnitedHealth Group, he embraced data analysis and mobile technologies, pioneering new digital delivery systems for evaluating care and collecting data. With "America's Health Rankings," a comprehensive annual perspective on our nation's health issues state by state, Dr. Tuckson and UnitedHealth Foundation issued an evidence-based call to action for individuals and their communities to improve their health. His book, The Doctor in the Mirror, focuses on patient empowerment to overcome everyday health issues.

Kathy Giusti, founder and CEO of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), will receive Research!America's 2014 Gordon and Llura Gund Leadership Award for advancing the research and treatment of myeloma, a hematologic cancer which is the second most common blood cancer after non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The American Cancer Society estimates that 22,350 new cases of multiple myeloma will be diagnosed in 2013. A myeloma survivor, Giusti co-founded MMRF with her twin sister. The organization plays a vital role in launching treatments that have helped double the life expectancy of many patients; established the first myeloma tissue bank; and launched an initiative that resulted in the complete mapping of the myeloma genome, which was made publicly available to advance myeloma research. Giusti and MMRF were featured in profiles in The New Yorker and Parade magazines about multiple myeloma research.

The Progeria Research Foundation (PRF) will receive Research!America's 2014 Paul G. Rogers Distinguished Organization Advocacy Award for its role for bringing progeria, a rare and fatal pediatric disease of premature aging, from obscurity to the forefront of successful translational research and giving hope to patients and families. PRF secured language in the Children's Health Act of 2000 in support of rare disease research, including progeria. The organization also led the discovery of the progeria gene, the identification of a potential drug treatment and, eventually, the first progeria clinical trial which resulted in the first treatment of the disease. In addition to the achievements in progeria research, PRF has also contributed significantly to a brand new field of rare-disease-related research, which will have a broad impact on millions of people.


Contact: Anna Briseno

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