CURING ALZHEIMER'S GENE BY GENE IT'S MY FUTURE!

Posted: Aug. 20, 2009
Phyllis Rappaport
Phyllis Rappaport,
Founding Board Member

A Founding Board member of Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, Phyllis chairs the board of the Jerome Lyle Rappaport Charitable Foundation, and is a director of New Boston Fund, Inc., a real estate investment company with $1.5 billion assets under management.  Her diverse management career includes senior positions at a Fortune 50 technology company, and she has an extensive background in public and non-profit service.  She serves on college, hospital, museum, and public policy boards in Boston and Cambridge.

My husband and I work hard and creatively on designing our philanthropy because we want our results to have big impact and make significant change.  We are thoughtful and pragmatic about selecting philanthropic partnerships and always seek measurable results.  So far, our partners have included Harvard and Suffolk Universities, several New England colleges and private schools, hospitals in the Harvard system, and a local museum.

Co-starting Cure Alzheimer’s Fund is the first time we have ever created a new charitable entity and we do this with great pride and excitement.  We believe there is an enormous opportunity right now to make significant progress towards a prevention or cure for this disease and we are grateful to each one of you who is helping us make this a national effort to focus top talent in eliminating this hugely burgeoning disease.

So why am I – already challenged by my large and ever-growing family, business, and foundation - involved?

For many years now, Jerry and I have funded young researchers in neurologic disease and mental illness at several Harvard hospitals.  In May 2003, I met Dr. Rudy Tanzi, Alzheimer’s geneticist and now Chairman of the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Research Consortium, and very simply, he changed and charged my world.

I was amazed that a co-founder of three of the four known genes for Alzheimer’s, the first co-founder of a gene for any neurologic disease, and an acclaimed scientist with strong NIH support, was still struggling to figure out how to get enough research funding to keep pace with his rapidly expanding capabilities for discovery.  I was struck by the fact that fundraising for breast and other cancers has become rightfully and highly popular, and yet a disease that is just as prevalent, and growing exponentially, was out of sight and out of mind for the general public.

I quickly realized that my baby boomer generation - the biggest to ever hit this world – plays a central role in the Alzheimer equation. As we age, our Alzheimer’s and the care we demand is going to bankrupt Medicare and Medicaid and drain state and national treasuries.  I don’t want that to be our legacy.

I lost sleep realizing that Alzheimer’s is a disease with no pretty faces, no survivors, and few persons fighting for money nationally to stop its spread. I observe that Alzheimer’s is not a disease people like to talk about, perhaps because those of us without affected family members think we can ignore it and those with an afflicted family member often are too emotionally or physically drained to raise their voice.  I coined and trademarked these words: CURING ALZHEIMER'S GENE BY GENE IT'S MY FUTURE!TM with hopes that a double-entendre (jean by jean) might lead to some retail marketing play with blue jeans but most of all, I imagine this as a headline for my picture and for your picture and for everyone else who joins us in envisioning our future without the disease:

So my story is a very simple one. I was inspired by Rudy and networked to find others who shared my passion.  Jeff Morby and Henry McCance were moving in the same direction. Together we have enlisted scientific and management talent to aid in our entrepreneurial venture.   Fortunately, many of you have joined forces with us, too, to help solve this disease.  We want all of you to join us again and again when you make decisions for your giving and philanthropy.

This is good company. We are motivated and intelligent investors, backing Cure Alzheimer’s Fund to follow a focused, well managed path of research to improve our future and our children’s future. Thank you.