University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota Foundation
Giving to medicine and health at the University of Minnesota

March 2012 Archives


Vikings Pro Bowl linebacker Chad Greenway and his wife, Jenni, brought fun and excitement to the kids at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital by donating “Chad’s Locker.” The locker, housed in the hospital’s resource room, has new gadgets for kids to play with, including iPads, movies, Xbox games, and more. This donation was made through Greenway's "Lead The Way" Foundation.


Golden Gopher student-athletes volunteered at Superhero Day at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital on March 29, 2012. Watch the video to see who their favorite superheroes are and learn how they helped make Superhero Day a success.

Maxine and Winston Wallin have contribute time and talent to the University and its efforts in the health sciences. (Photo: Don Dickinson)

The late Winston Wallin was keen to invest in promising but untested ideas. Today, University of Minnesota neuroscientists like Kenneth Baker, Ph.D., hope to benefit from Wallin’s belief that it’s worth taking a risk to nurture great potential. Baker is one of four University researchers who got a boost to their work with one of the first Winston and Maxine Wallin Neuroscience Discovery Fund awards, which were distributed over the winter.


Learning became a global endeavor for Lan Luu and Emily Olson, both University of Minnesota students in the Medical School and School of Public Health, when they traveled to India last August for a research study on asbestos exposure and mesothelioma, a deadly lung cancer.


Rebecca Kill and Gopher Football players take time to visit University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital, brightening the day for patients and families.

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Scientist Meri Firpo, Ph.D., spends countless hours in her University of Minnesota lab intensely focused on stem cell research that could lead to a cure for type 1 diabetes.

But sometimes, she says, it’s the ideas that arise outside of the lab—after work—that provide a fresh perspective on research questions and, ultimately, lead to new discoveries.

One of Firpo’s latest diabetes research projects started with a conversation she had at a grad student recruiting party. Thanks to that chat, Firpo and University cancer biologist Anindya Bagchi, Ph.D., are teaming up to find a way to protect insulin-producing beta (or islet) cells—the ones damaged in diabetes.


In the wild, lions rely on their prides—communities in the animal kingdom—for protection, food, and other types of support. Members of Minnesota Lions clubs foster a similar sense of community by committing to causes that help others, such as cure-focused diabetes research.

The Minnesota Lions Diabetes Foundation, Inc. awarded a $50,000 grant last fall to University of Minnesota scientists, expanding the group’s commitment to diabetes research—specifically homing in on the study of kidney disease linked to type 2 diabetes.

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The Decade of Discovery, a major initiative of the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics, has hired an executive director and awarded three research grants totaling $1.86 million to bring the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic closer to the initiative’s goal: finding a cure for diabetes.


If you would like to support groundbreaking research at the University of Minnesota and also receive steady income for life, a charitable gift annuity may be right for you. Through a simple contract, you agree to make a donation of cash, stocks, or other assets to the Minnesota Medical Foundation. In return, we agree to pay you a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.


Mark your calendar for Golf Classic on Monday, June 18 at Town & Country Club in St. Paul.

This event benefits cure-focused type 1 diabetes research at the University of Minnesota’s Schulze Diabetes Institute. Since its inception in 1996, Golf Classic and related efforts have raised nearly $5 million.


Florida State University head football coach Jimbo Fisher and his wife, Candi, presented the University of Minnesota with a $500,000 check on March 3 to fund pioneering research to fight Fanconi anemia (FA)—a rare blood disorder affecting their youngest son, Ethan.

A research team including Jason Nikas, D.P.T., and Amy Skubitz, Ph.D., recently discovered gene biomarkers that could one day predict which women with advanced ovarian cancer will respond to standard therapy. (Photo: Scott Streble)

Levi Downs Jr., M.D., M.S., knows what most people think when they hear ovarian cancer: imminent death. But, he says, that idea doesn't reflect current reality. "It's true that most women are diagnosed at an advanced stage, and the majority are not going to be cured of their cancer," says Downs, coleader of the Women's Cancer Research Program at the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota. "But there's a very dramatic statistic I tell people -- the difference in average survival from the late 1970s to now."


Scott Dehm, Ph.D., has a message for prostate cancer cells: Resistance is futile. Dehm, a Masonic Scholar and assistant professor in the Medical School's Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, is exploring genetic changes that allow prostate cancer to become resistant to hormone treatment.

John Wagner, M.D.

University of Minnesota investigators have opened a Phase I clinical trial designed to test the safety and potency of blood-forming stem cells in umbilical cord blood that previously have been multiplied in a new cell-culturing system.


Many families have been affected by cancer in some way. But in the late 1990s, it hit the family of KARE 11 sports anchor Randy Shaver especially hard. Within 11 months, Roseann Giovanatto-Shaver, Randy's wife, was diagnosed with melanoma, Roseann's mother was diagnosed with uterine cancer, and Randy was diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin's lymphoma. The Shavers had been raising money for cancer research through a golf tournament for years before this. But after their own experiences with the disease, they began to focus their funding efforts locally.


After a blood and marrow transplant, doctors expect that a donor's cells will take over an ill patient's body and create a new, healthy immune system. But sometimes those donor cells go too far and attack the patient's own tissue, resulting in a miserable and potentially deadly complication called graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). But now, by applying basic science research performed at the University of Minnesota, a Masonic Cancer Center physician-scientist has tested a new cellular therapy that may help to prevent this complication.


The primary reason people give me is that it will help their children and future generations. They also need to get treatment for their cancer, and it may help them. Many people recognize the seriousness of their situation and know that a clinical trial might be the best option. What are some common questions participants ask about clinical trials? “Is it going to work?” They’re nervous about their cancer....


Imagine you'd been diagnosed with high blood pressure and had started taking a medication to control it. At your follow-up appointment, if you hadn't reached your target goal, would your doctor say, "Well, sorry that didn't work out," and send you on your way? Of course not. He or she might adjust the dose, add a medication, or encourage you to lose weight. Masonic Cancer Center researcher Anne Joseph, M.D., M.P.H., has designed a smoking cessation program that takes a similar stepped approach.

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