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$2M Endowed Chair At Pitt To Further Research Into Rare Disease Amyloidosis

Mark Nootbaar
90.5 FM WESA

When then-Pittsburgh Mayor Richard Caliguiri died from amyloidosis in 1988 not much was known about the disease. Since then, research and awareness has increased and now an endowed chair is being created to further research and treatment at the University of Pittsburgh.

Amyloidosis is a systemic disease that usually attacks the heart but can impact other internal organs.

The Caliguiri Fund of the Pittsburgh Foundation is giving $460,000, combined with a $275,000 grant from the Simeon M. and Katherine Reed Jones Fund to help launch the chair. A similar amount is expected from the University of Pittsburgh.

“It catalyzes the clinical and research activity around (amyloidosis),” said Prem Soman, Director of Nuclear Cardiology at the University of Pittsburgh. “That will result in the development of a specialized center for the diagnoses, treatment and research into this condition.”

Amyloidosis was once thought to be very rare, but Soman said recent advancements in non-invasive detection techniques have increased diagnoses. He said there have also been advancements in understanding of the genetic forms of the disease.

Perhaps most important to Soman is the hope that they will find a therapy to fight amyloidosis soon, which could be especially important in Pittsburgh.

“There is a particular type of gene abnormality called the Appalachian mutation which appears to occur with a significant prevalence in Pennsylvania,” Soman said.

University of Pittsburgh officials said a search for the Richard S. Caliguiri Endowed Chair in amyloidosis and heart disease will begin soon with the launch of the clinical center later this year.