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Donor Stories: Christopher Pendergast

"Ride for Life" Organization Donates $500,000 for ALS clinical trials

STONY BROOK, N.Y., April 3, 2012 – Christopher Pendergast, who has battled amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) for 19 years, is donating $500,000 through proceeds from the Ride for Life organization he founded, to support the development of an ALS Clinical Trials Program at the Stony Brook ALS Center of Excellence named in his honor in 2010. The Christopher Pendergast ALS Center of Excellence is the only ALS Association certified center on Long Island. The gift will be matched by the Simons Challenge Grant, providing a total impact of $1 million to help fund clinical research in hopes of finding a cure for ALS, a fatal disease.

Christopher PendergastALS is a neurological disorder also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is characterized by progressive degeneration of nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. The breadth of research in ALS continues to grow. There has been progress in understanding ALS disease pathogenesis and in new approaches to potential treatments based on stem cell therapies, gene therapies, and immunotherapy.

“Clinical research is an important component in the search for a breakthrough treatment against this devastating disease,” said Samuel L. Stanley, M.D., President of Stony Brook University.

“Christopher’s generous gift will enable the University to advance its collaborative ALS research and for the Center of Excellence to expand its use of promising treatments to patients through the development of new clinical trials.”

“We are thrilled to be the recipient of this outstanding support,” said Kenneth Kaushansky, M.D., M.A.C.P., Senior Vice President for the Health Sciences, and Dean of the School of Medicine. “The funds will help us to increase the Center’s participation in national clinical trials, and for the School of Medicine to hire additional experts in the area of clinical trials research.”

Recognized nationally for his patient advocacy, Pendergast was a major force behind the opening of a comprehensive ALS clinic at Stony Brook in 2002. Prior to that, he envisioned the need for a full-service ALS treatment facility on Long Island for patients and their families and presented this need to the School of Medicine. Pendergast’s advocacy and service helped to build a clinic at Stony Brook that has grown into a multidisciplinary practice that is the only full-service ALS treatment clinic on Long Island. By 2009, the ALS Association recognized the Stony Brook clinic as an ALS Center of Excellence.

In December 2010, the ALS Center was named after Pendergast because of his integral role in its development and in helping to advance treatment for ALS patients nationally. During the naming ceremony, Pendergast was recognized widely by the School of Medicine and entire University; the ALS Association, New York Chapter, and numerous elected officials.

The ALS Clinical Trials Program will be coordinated through Stony Brook’s Department of Neurology. The ALS Center of Excellence is one of nine clinical centers of the Stony Brook Neurosciences Institute.

A top priority of the Simons Gift and Challenge Grant is to build research within the Stony Brook School of Medicine. One of the three major research areas the Simons Gift will focus on is the neurosciences.

Through proceeds from the Ride for Life, Pendergast has contributed to date more than $400,000 to patient care services provided at the Center. The Ride for Life Foundation will continue to help fund the Center’s patient support programs.

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Stony Brook is an outstanding public university, offering a wonderful education at reasonable cost to thousands of young people. The generosity of those who joined us in this effort will enhance the University in many dimensions, making that education more valuable still.

—Jim Simons