Rare Daily Staff

The UMass Medical School announced the establishment of the Li Weibo Institute for Rare Diseases Research, an effort to build upon the work in gene therapy, RNA biology, and RNAi technology and accelerate the development of new therapies.

The Li Weibo Charitable Foundation in China provided a $10 million gift to the University to establish the institute. It will be home to existing faculty whose expertise has led to discoveries related to diseases such as ALS, cystic fibrosis, Canavan disease, Rett syndrome, Huntington’s disease, fragile X syndrome, CDKL5 disorder, and others.

The gift is one of the largest charitable donations to UMass Medical School in its history. Additionally, it said Li Weibo is contributing $750,000 to establish an annual scholarship for up to five doctoral students in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

Guangping Gao, professor in Biomedical Research, professor of microbiology & physiological systems and director of the Horae Gene Therapy Center & Vector Core at UMass Medical School, and Michael Green, chair of Genetic Research, and chair and professor of molecular, cell & cancer biology, will serve as co-directors of the institute.

Weibo said he established the Li Weibo Charitable Foundation in 2013 to support a number of causes, including biomedical research and education. He said he plans to donate half of his personal wealth to the foundation. Weibo is founder and chairman and CEO of Glory Harvest Group, a Chinese conglomerate extending across real estate, hotel, mining and energy, technology, biotechnology and other industries.

“In the global scientific research field, quantum leaps in biomedical and human health research will be made in the near future,” Weibo said. “My goal is to participate in and promote biomedical research.”

Terence Flotte, executive deputy chancellor, provost, and dean of the School of Medicine, said the institute will build on discoveries already underway at UMass Medical School.

“Every week it seems, I receive emails from mothers and fathers of children with these kinds of diseases,” said Flotte. “After many years of having to sadly tell them that we have hope for the future but nothing to offer now, we are now going to be able to, in some cases, say that if they are willing to participate in pioneering trials, we may in fact be able to help them.”

October 11, 2017

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