The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Foundation's First Grantee, Giamila Fantuzzi, is Awarded Funding by the National Institutes of Health

Dr. Fantuzzi’s research will investigate the role of leptin in inflammatory bowel disease

Tuesday, December 2, 2003

Los Angeles, CA – Philanthropist Eli Broad, founder of The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Foundation, announced today that Giamila Fantuzzi, Ph.D., the first grantee of the foundation’s Broad Medical Research Program (BMRP) for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) grants, has been awarded a $1 million five-year grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support research in IBD.

"This is a tremendous success for the Broad Medical Research Program," said Eli Broad. "Using our grant, Dr. Fantuzzi was able to generate preliminary information in her research and gather enough data to receive a National Institutes of Health grant. This is a positive step toward finding treatment options for inflammatory bowel disease."

IBD refers to two chronic inflammatory disorders: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It is estimated that up to two million people in the United States are affected with IBD, which occurs predominantly in the developed countries of North America and Europe. Primary symptoms include abdominal pain, bleeding, diarrhea, weight loss and fever. There can be secondary complications, such as joint, eye, skin and liver problems. In patients with mild symptoms, medications can control the disease. However, for those with severe IBD, hospitalizations, surgery, transfusions and intravenous feeding may be needed. Although scientific advances have been made in understanding and treating IBD, the precise cause, successful treatment and prevention of IBD remain unknown.

The BMRP was established in the summer of 2001 as part of The Broad Foundation and seeks to stimulate innovative, creative and cutting-edge research that will lead to progress in the prevention, therapy or understanding of IBD.  The BMRP has a rapid review and application process and uses expert international reviewers. They have already funded more than 50 IBD research grants in 12 countries.

"The BMRP wants to make a significant contribution toward the prevention and cure of IBD. We have chosen to do this by providing pilot funding for innovative research. This will allow scientists to generate enough preliminary data to receive more extensive funding from organizations such as the NIH," said BMRP director, Daniel Hollander, M.D.

Dr. Fantuzzi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. "I am grateful to the Broad Medical Research Program for giving me this initial funding, which led to the NIH grant," said Dr. Fantuzzi. "I am excited to have the opportunity to make an impact on IBD research."

Dr. Fantuzzi’s project was funded by the BMRP in January 2002. Dr. Fantuzzi also received a grant for this work from the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), which was partly funded by the CCFA Rocky Mountains Chapter. Her project explores the role of leptin and its receptors in inflammation of the bowel. Leptin, a protein produced by fat cells, has been studied primarily in relation to obesity. Besides regulating appetite and body fat, leptin also modulates immunity and inflammation. It is suspected that leptin could be an important factor regulating inflammation in IBD. Dr. Fantuzzi is studying the role of leptin in experimental models of inflammatory bowel disease in mice using genetically modified mice that do not produce the leptin receptor. This project could help in understanding the complex network regulating the pathogenesis of IBD. The information gained could form the basis for new therapeutic approaches to IBD using leptin or blockers of its receptor.

Eli Broad is a renowned business leader who has built two Fortune 500 companies over a five-decade business career. He is chairman of AIG SunAmerica, Inc., and is founder-chairman of KB Home (formerly Kaufman and Broad Home Corporation). Today, Mr. Broad spends much of his time as a "venture philanthropist," shouldering financial risk for innovative projects that might not receive funding from traditional organizations.

The Broads recently made a pledge expected to total $100 million over ten years to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to create the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute. This research collaboration between MIT, Harvard University and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research is being established to advance genomic medicine.

The Broads have also made major contributions to the California Institute of Technology to construct the Broad Center for the Biological Sciences and to the School of Arts and Architecture at UCLA for the construction of The Broad Art Center.

In addition to the Broad Medical Research Program of The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Foundation, the Broads have two other foundations. The Broad Foundation’s goal is to improve governance, management and labor relations in the nation’s largest urban K-12 school districts. Lending contemporary works of art to museums and university galleries is the mission of The Broad Art Foundation.