Football stars, patient groups and biotechnology leaders gathered together in Philadelphia this past Saturday night to celebrate emerging rare disease researchers as part of the Uplifting Athletes Young Investigator Draft presented by biotechnology leader CSL Behring.
The unique event goes to the heart of Uplifting Athletes’ mission of raising awareness and funding for rare disease research by drawing on the passion and reach of college and professional football. The Young Investigator Draft hands out grant awards in the style of the NFL Draft to emerging researchers focused on different areas of rare diseases. In its second year, the event more than doubled the total amount handed out to $120,000.
Get the latest stories from Vita by signing up for our newsletter.
“Uplifting Athletes has taken the energy and passion of college sports and applied it to the rare disease community,” said Jens Oltrogge, CSL Behring’s Head of Commercial Development, Hematology, in his remarks during the event. “CSL Behring is excited to join Uplifting Athletes once again in supporting emerging investigators in the promising world of rare disease research.”
The grant recipients were selected by groups dedicated to several different rare diseases including Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure, Castleman Disease Collaborative Network, Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Project ALS. Awards went out to researchers in five different areas of rare diseases, including:
- Rare Genetic Disorders - Dr. Shana McCormack – Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)
- Rare Muscular & Neurological Disorders – Dr. Elizabeth Harrington - Columbia University Medical Center
- Rare Autoimmune & Immunological Disorders – Dr. Alberto Japp - University of Pennsylvania
- Rare Blood Disorders – Dr. Brian Sworder -Stanford University School of Medicine
- Rare Cancers – Dr. Eugene Hwang - Children’s National Medical Center
In addition, Dr. Brenda Gallie of The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto received an Uplifting Athletes Young Investigator Draft Collaborative Leadership Award for her work in researching retinoblastoma. She was introduced with a video appearance by former Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion winner and University of Southern California football player Jake Olson, who lost both his eyes to the rare eye cancer as a young child.
Other presenters included Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Malik Turner, former Penn State University and University of Massachusetts standout Adam Breneman and Dr. David Fajgenbaum, a former Georgetown University quarterback who received a Young Investigator Draft grant last year.
The keynote speaker on the night was University of Kansas assistant coach Josh Eargle, who was honored as the Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion on Friday night at the Maxwell Football Club awards in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Eargle’s 6-year-old daughter, Landrey, suffers from an extremely rare genetic condition. Eargle was honored for sharing his family’s story and raising awareness of the rare disease community.
The event was emceed by Stephanie Stahl, health reporter for Philadelphia’s CBS3-TV.