Stony Brook University has received a $2.5 million gift from Robert and Lisa Lourie to advance research and clinical care at the National Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Center at Stony Brook Long Island Children’s Hospital and to establish a new state-of-the-art imaging center at Stony Brook Medicine. The gift will be matched by the Simons Foundation Challenge Grant, providing a total impact of $5 million. The Pediatric MS Center will be renamed the Lourie Center for Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis.
Multiple Sclerosis historically has been viewed as an adult-onset disease. But according to the National MS Society, approximately eight-to-ten thousand children in the nation have MS. The disease in children can be difficult to diagnose. The advent of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other ways to detect MS lesions have helped to secure the MS diagnosis in children. But because little is yet known on impact of the disease in children, neurologists and other MS experts still seek a consensus on MS diagnosis and treatment in children.
The Lisa and Robert Lourie Imaging Suite will include new imaging technologies that will help Stony Brook’s neuroscientists understand more about the brain and spinal cord in relation to MS, epilepsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and other neurological disorders. The first purchase for the Suite will be the Siemens Biograph mMR System, a state-of-the-art positron emission tomography (PET)/MRI scanner. The system enables physicians to simultaneously determine both structure and function of abnormalities throughout the head and body.
“Stony Brook Medicine is rapidly becoming a national leader in academic healthcare and research,” says Samuel L. Stanley, Jr., M.D., President, Stony Brook University. “The Lourie’s extraordinary gift will enable us to provide the resources and environment needed to support the best researchers, and to reach new heights in pioneering research.”
“Robert and Lisa’s incredible generosity will help Stony Brook Medicine advance our mission of excellence in so many ways, including both imaging and neurological disorders,” says Kenneth Kaushansky, M.D., M.A.C.P., Senior Vice President, Health Sciences, and Dean, Stony Brook University School of Medicine. “The gift will allow our faculty to delve into the origins and markers of this devastating disease, hopefully leading to better diagnoses and potentially, treatments.”
“The imaging advances made possible by the PET/MRI scanner could dramatically impact the path of future research,” says Lauren Krupp, M.D., Professor of Neurology, Stony Brook University School of Medicine, and Pediatric MS Program Director. Dr. Krupp explains that the use of the PET/MRI presents Stony Brook MS experts with the opportunity to pursue new avenues of research, including being able to measure the effects of MS on brain tissue at the level of individual cell types.
The Lourie’s hope is that new basic and clinical MS research at Stony Brook will lead to a cure for pediatric MS. With the multidisciplinary expert team of MS clinicians and researchers at the Center and new imaging capabilities, the team expects to advance diagnostic methods and treatments for children with MS. They also hope to unravel the mechanism by which the disease course may be reversed in pediatric cases, gaining insights that could lead to a cessation of disease progression in children and adults affected by MS.
“There are a lot of known, valuable uses for this technology,” says Robert Lourie, Ph.D., a physicist. “But it is new enough that I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the most significant things that come out of it haven’t been thought of yet.
While the Lourie’s do not have a personal connection to pediatric MS, they both feel the gift represents what they view as a responsibility to give back to important causes after being extremely successful in their careers. Dr. Lourie rose in the field of physics and eventually became a tenured Associate Professor of Physics at the University of Virginia and is now Head of Futures Research at Renaissance Technologies. Lisa Lourie is a nurse who has worked in intensive care units and with AIDS patients.
Lisa says a “feel-good” aspect to this gift is that it incorporates their natural interests. “The research is a marriage of the bioinformatics, which is Robert’s end of things, and then the clinical, which is my end of things.”
The Lourie Center for Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis, part of Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, was established to advance the recognition, evaluation, and treatment of children and adolescents with MS through the creation of a multidisciplinary program dedicated to clinical care and scientific research of children and adolescents with MS. The Center includes a team of experts in MS, pediatric neurology, nursing, social work, psychiatry, neuroimaging, and neuropsychology. The first center of its kind in the nation, it has been designated a Center of Excellence by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
About Stony Brook University Neurosciences Institute:
Composed of 10 highly specialized centers plus a core neurosciences program, Stony Brook University Neurosciences Institute continues to recruit top physicians and invest in latest-generation technology. Its Cerebrovascular and Stroke Center features highly advanced technology, a biplane angiography suite equipped with the Siemens Artis® zee with syngo DynaCT™neuro systems, and has a world-class neuroendovascular replicator and research laboratory. In addition, the Center’s physicians have been among the first in North America to perform groundbreaking procedures.