Cedars-Sinai has received a $20-million donation from Dr. and Mrs. Min H. Kao and the Kao Family Foundation to establish the Kao Autoimmunity Institute to foster research and find treatments for rheumatic disorders.
The donation will also help launch the institute’s Scleroderma Program, which is designed to provide multidisciplinary and integrated care for people with scleroderma, and also to fund research, training, education, and outreach for these patients.
Both the institute and the Scleroderma Program will have new directors and will integrate the Department of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai, bringing together its doctors, researchers, and other health professionals and those from its affiliated hospitals and care sites.
“Our family is fortunate to be in a position to partner with an academic medical center that places a premium on patient care and game-changing medical research,” Min H. Kao, PhD, said in a press release. “We truly hope this gift will enable Cedars-Sinai to develop a nationally recognized institute that brings lifesaving treatments to those who experience debilitating diseases.”
Estimates indicate that 24 million people in the United States are affected by one of more than 80 autoimmune disorders, including scleroderma. These disorders develop when the immune system, which typically helps defend against illnesses, begins to attack the body’s own healthy tissues and cells.
“The Kao family gift creates a unique opportunity to assemble the best researchers and clinicians together to better understand autoimmune diseases and to develop more effective treatments for our patients,” said Paul W. Noble, MD, chair of the department of medicine and director of the Women’s Guild Lung Institute at Cedars-Sinai.
“Our investigators will have the opportunity to improve patient care and outcomes by studying disease onset and progression, as well as the key roles the microbiome [the genome of all microorganisms living in the human body], endocrine system, genetics and gender may play in autoimmune diseases that disproportionately affect younger people and women,” he added.
The Kao family wants future research to identify individualized treatments for people with autoimmune conditions, in contrast to the current “one-size-fits-all” strategy in most rheumatologic diseases, which is a goal shared by Cedars-Sinai.
“We are committed to scholarly discovery of how best to distinguish autoimmune disease subtypes and to use personalized genetic and clinical information to develop safe, targeted therapies for individual patients that lead to improved health outcomes,” said Shlomo Melmed, dean of Cedars-Sinai’s medical faculty.
“This important gift by the Kao family recognizes the work of our talented investigators and medical staff and their dedication to tackling the most challenging diseases,” Melmed added. “We have a great deal of work ahead of us. The Kao family’s support and partnership are invaluable in that quest.”