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Pay it forward: Family gives $1.5M gift for transplant research

July 12, 2019
Dan Allen and his siblings made a donation to MUSC on behalf of their family foundation, the Patterson Barclay Memorial Foundation.

When Dan Allen and three of his four siblings needed kidney transplants due to polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a genetic disorder, the Allen family knew they wanted to do something so their children wouldn’t have to suffer the same fate. The family members realized they had the power through their family foundation, the Patterson Barclay Memorial Foundation, to change the paradigm of transplantation. It was the where and how they needed to find.

“What often ails our transplant patients is that they all are susceptible to infections, cancers, diabetes and general systemic consequences of their very powerful immunosuppressant medications,” said MUSC transplant surgeon Satish Nadig

Some of the siblings were already suffering from some of these side effects – but they weren’t thinking of themselves. “We have children and grandchildren – we’re doing this for them,” said Dan’s brother Jack, who had his transplant at MUSC Health last year.

“We don’t want to see them suffer the same challenges we are experiencing.”

Nadig and his colleague, immunologist Carl Atkinson, an immunologist, had successfully demonstrated in animal models a way to deliver the immunosuppressant rapamycin via a nanocarrier to a transplanted kidney and its local environment only, leaving the rest of the body’s immune system unaffected. Although rapid progress has been made, the science was in the early stages and would take years to get to clinical trials.

In 2017, the Allens’ foundation made a generous gift of $500,000 to advance this promising research and honor their mother with the naming of the Lee Patterson Allen Transplant Immunobiology Laboratory.

Thanks to their support, researchers have made great strides in addressing the health and longevity of transplant patients. When Dan’s twin brother, Fred, passed away in January, the family wanted to do more to expedite the research.

In May, they honored Fred with an additional $1.5 million to what is now known as the MUSC Transplant Research and Immunobiology Institute with the hopes that community partners and patients will match their gift to reach the needed $3 million goal.

With the new funding, the lab will be poised to move into large animal studies in the next step to get to clinical trial.

“This contribution is about one family’s desire to create a better life for future generations,” said Atkinson .“But, the gift is so much more. It’s about changing transplant as a field — how we pretreat organs, how we minimize the impact of the pretreated organ, how we achieve better outcomes, and once the patient is transplanted, how we eliminate the dangerous systemic side effects,” he adds. “That’s the holy grail.”

For Nadig, the gift is personal. He has dedicated his life to finding a solution to the harmful systemic side effects of immunosuppressant medications. “Not only do I truly believe this gift will change the paradigm of transplant,” Nadig said, “but on a personal level, I know it will change the lives of my patients, and I can’t thank the members of the Allen Family enough.”

“We are very grateful to be where we are now,” he added. “The fact that the Allen family wants to give back is life-changing for so many transplant patients and their families, and we hope more people are inspired to work toward matching their generous gift.”

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Staff Report