The total grant is an accumulation of many donations made over five years to the Greenview Fund for hepatitis research at the University of Michigan.
Specifically, the gift supports the work of internal medicine researchers Anna Lok, M.D., Michael Volk, M.D., and Andrew Tai, M.D. Ph.D., and their team, who are achieving ground-breaking research on hepatitis C.
This latest donation also helped finance the employment of an expert researcher from China, who brings significant experience in SARS virus, which has some structural commonalities with hepatitis C.
“Small donations are critical to research projects. An incremental stream of small donations gives researchers the ability to start-up research projects, equip them, and run them until they can gain substantial multi-year grants from the government or other large organizations,” says Debbie Green, co-founder of the Ann Arbor-based Greenview Foundation.
Hepatitis C is a potentially fatal disease that afflicts more than 3 million Americans and causes 8,000 to 12,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. The virus is transmitted through the blood and infects the liver. It is the primary reason for liver transplants.
“Our research focuses on how the host liver cell supports the hepatitis C virus,” Tai says. “We are working to identify enzymes that make the host cell habitable for the virus and then to block them so we can clear the virus from the body.”
Treatment for the disease includes use of the drug peginterferon, which can cause a vast array of side effects sometimes serious enough to halt treatment. The U-M hepatitis research team is looking for alternatives.
“Hepatitis C has been around for a long time, and there are still many people who have it and don’t know they are infected, so they don’t seek treatment,” says Lok, the Alice Lohrman Andrews Research Professor of Hepatology, professor of internal medicine, director of Clinical Hepatology and associate chair for clinical research.
According to a study conducted by Drs. Volk and Lok, only half of those infected are aware of their diagnosis. This study which was published in the journal Hepatology in 2009, was funded by the Greenview Foundation.
Lok was recognized by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) as its 2011 Distinguished Service Award recipient. The Distinguished Service Award is given to an individual in honor of his or her sustained service to AASLD or the liver disease community in general.
This award recognizes service provided to the community of Hepatology researchers and clinicians over an extended period; service that is well above and beyond that provided by many members who serve on the Governing Board and committees of AASLD.
Her research published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that a combination of two pills can, in some people, clear the hepatitis C virus without interferon.
“For some patients who wish to seek treatment, the need to inject themselves and the side effects of Interferon discourage them from getting started, but now there is hope for these patients,” adds Lok.
Many of the Americans affected by hepatitis C are healthcare workers who were exposed to infected patients or people who received blood transfusions before 1992, when a test for Hepatitis C became available. Worldwide, more than 170 million people are estimated to have Hepatitis C, most without yet knowing it.
From its inception, the Greenview Foundation has collected and donated a total of $65,000 to research organizations focusing on hepatitis C.
About the Greenview Foundation
The Greenview Foundation, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, founded by Ted and Debbie Green, is a 501(c) non-profit organization that raises money for medical research to improve the diagnosis and treatment options of Hepatitis C patients worldwide. The Foundation particularly focuses on: Non-Interferon based treatments, non-invasive diagnostic procedures to assess disease progression, and methods to decrease side effects of available treatments. For more information, visit www.hepcfund.org.
About the University of Michigan Hepatology Program
The U-M hepatology program includes 13 faculty members with expertise in a wide variety of liver diseases, including hepatitis C. The program has several laboratory and clinical research programs on viral hepatitis, liver cancer, and liver failure. The faculty are involved with many NIH-sponsored clinical research networks and other clinical trials supported by pharmaceutical companies.
The hepatology program provides state-of-the-art, innovative and compassionate care to patients affected by liver diseases through general hepatology, viral hepatitis, liver tumor and liver transplantation clinics. All patients who are seen in any of the hepatology Clinics have the potential to participate in new therapies and other research protocols; and eligible patients are referred for participation in clinical trials. For more information about the University of Michigan Hepatology Program, please see – http://www.med.umich.edu/hepatology