Bequest supports Alzheimer's research
Dianne Harris Wright was one of Virginia Commonwealth University's most steadfast benefactors, a passionate advocate for VCU Massey Cancer Center, the School of Engineering and many other areas of the university. Though her 2013 death left a void on both VCU campuses, her legacy will live on through two generous bequests. Along with $3 million to benefit the Dianne Harris Wright Fund for Ovarian Cancer Research at VCU Massey Cancer Center, Wright also left $500,000 in her will to support crucial VCU research efforts related to Alzheimer's disease.
Wright's mother had Alzheimer's disease and became the inspiration for the bequest to support research into the disease, which is estimated to affect as many as 5.1 million Americans.
The need for continued Alzheimer's research is profound, said James P. Bennett Jr., M.D., Ph.D., Bemiss Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry and Physiology/Biophysics and director of the VCU Parkinson's and Movement Disorders Center.
Philanthropy such as Wright's has always been important to research efforts, he said, but today, with less government funding available to researchers and academicians specializing in dementia, the need is even greater.
"Mrs. Wright's gift allows us to continue our work to determine what goes wrong in cells and brings about the condition known as Alzheimer's," Bennett said.
Bennett cited three current projects that will benefit from the Wright bequest: a mitochondrial drug therapy, a clinical trial involving a drug to help slow down the progression of dementia, and the generation of nerve cells using blood samples to determine how nerve cells get sick and die in those with dementia.
"Mrs. Wright's gift is extremely important because it will allow critical work to continue to figure out how to solve the looming Alzheimer's tsunami," he said. "There isn't one single cure. We're working to understand it better. We're close."