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Rainwater Charitable Foundation launches world’s largest prize for brain research

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Rainwater Charitable Foundation



The Rainwater Charitable Foundation, one of the largest independent funders of neurodegenerative disease (ND) research, is launching the Rainwater Prize Program to encourage and reward scientific progress toward new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases related to the accumulation of tau protein in the brain.

The foundation announced Nov. 6 that is offering up to $10 million for ground-breaking discoveries, making it the largest prize program for brain research ever created.

Dr. Richard Carmona, U.S. surgeon general from 2002-2006, will be chairman of the program.

The mission of the foundation’s medical research program is to accelerate the development of treatments and eventual cures for tau-related neurodegenerative diseases. These “tauopathies” affect more than 50 million patients and include Alzheimer’s disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), and many other forms of neurodegenerative disease.

Fort Worth investor and philanthropist Richard Rainwater was diagnosed with PSP in 2009. He died Sept. 27, 2015, at age 71.

Rainwater was the son of a North Texas grocer who went on to graduate from Stanford Business School, work for Goldman Sachs and eventually amass a fortune as an investment manager for the Bass family before becoming a billionaire investor and philanthropist in his own right.

Forbes magazine listed Rainwater as the world’s 663rd wealthiest person and ranked him 236th in the United States with an estimated net worth of $3 billion in 2015.

The Bass family, heirs to Texas oil wildcatter Sid Richardson’s fortune, hired Rainwater to manage its investments when he was 26. In 1984, Rainwater and Sid Bass invested $478 million in the struggling Walt Disney Co. and helped to install then-Paramount Pictures President Michael Eisner as Disney’s chief executive officer.

In 1986, when he turned 42, Rainwater went into business for himself and later helped to engineer George W. Bush’s purchase of the Texas Rangers baseball team, the foundation of Bush’s personal fortune.

Rainwater also mentored other investors such as David Bonderman, another Bass family employee who went on to become founding partner of TPG Capital. The firm has helped to recapitalize such businesses as Neiman Marcus department stores, Continental Airlines and Burger King.

In addition to starting the Tau Consortium, a highly collaborative working group of world-class scientists, he also dedicated funds for the Rainwater Prize Program with the goal of accelerating milestone achievements and breakthroughs in research into neurodegenerative diseases.

“It is an honor to continue Richard’s legacy and the positive impact he has had on people around the world, even after his passing,” Carmona said in a news release from the Rainwater Foundation.

“It is hard to fathom that we have such inadequate treatment options for the millions of patients diagnosed with a tauopathy every year. We need more funding and creative initiatives such as the Rainwater Prize Program to increase the amount of research and accelerate scientific advances. These millions of patients need hope for a better life,” he said.

The Rainwater Prize Program is divided into three prize categories, with any one individual or team eligible to win up to $10 million.

The Rainwater Breakthrough Prize for Effective Treatments in PSP will be awarded when a breakthrough treatment is advanced to clinical trial according to the following eligibility:

– $2 million will be awarded to a treatment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that meaningfully extends better quality of life for patients.

– $4 million will be awarded to an FDA-approved treatment that cures PSP early in progression.

– $10 million will be awarded to an FDA-approved treatment that prevents PSP and/or reverses disease damage.

The Rainwater Milestone Prize for Advances in Tauopathy Research awards up to $2 million to investigator(s) who make a significant contribution to the understanding of tau-related diseases by addressing specific critical gaps in technology and disease knowledge that will help scientists develop effective treatments.

The Rainwater Prize for Outstanding Innovation in Neurodegenerative Research recognizes investigator(s) whose work is considered a significant contribution to the understanding of tau-related diseases. This $250,000 award will be given annually starting in 2019.

“My dad understood that the research he was funding may not be able to help him directly, but he knew the work was important and was going to inevitably lead to better treatments for patients like him in the future,” Todd Rainwater, chairman of the Rainwater Charitable Foundation’s board, said in the release. “He set a great example for all of us, and we hope others will join us in this mission to get closer to a cure.”

The Rainwater Charitable Foundation was created in the early 1990s and supports a range of programs in K-12 education, medical research and other causes. With nearly $100 million invested to date, the Rainwater family has helped to advance eight treatments into human trials.

– FWBP Staff, Associated Press

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