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March 03, 2016

Jefferson neuroscience receives $500K gift for new Stem Cell Center

Donation made by the Strauss Foundation to commemorate the late Robert Perry Strauss

Jefferson Stem Cells
011315_Jefferson_Carroll Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Jefferson University Hospital in Center City Philadelphia.

Jefferson Hospital's Vicki and Jack Farber Institute for Neuroscience announced this week that it received a $500,000 gift that will go toward the construction of a new Stem Cell Center for research into neurodegenerative diseases.

The donation came from Kimberly Strauss and The Strauss Foundation to commemorate her late father Robert Perry Strauss, who was born at Jefferson and co-founded Pep Boys Auto Stores in 1921. Raised in Merion, Strauss was an All-Philadelphia basketball star at Episcopal Academy and later attended Duke University, where he was named All-Southern Confernce under legendary coach Red Auerbach. The multi-talented Strauss also went on to start in a Hollywood production of 'Hamlet' before dedicating his later years to philanthropy.

Kimberly Strauss said the donation is meant to celebrate her father's life from beginning to end while helping to make a difference in the lives of others who can benefit from advances in stem cell research.

“On behalf of the Strauss Foundation, I am enormously proud to make this donation to Jefferson in honor of my late father whose enterprising and compassionate spirit are emblematic of this organization’s ambitious drive into neuroscientific research,” said Ms. Strauss.

The new Stem Cell Center will be led by Dr. Lorraine Iacovitti, whose research focuses on treating neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson's Disease. Her lab examines how neurons differentiate into dopamine neurons during development of the brain and seeks to create neuroprotective strategies to treat Parkinson's Disease. Her team also recently expanded studies on stem cells to explore their potential use in treating stroke, the third leading cause of death in the United States.

“These generous funds will enable us to advance our initiatives on personalized treatments for an array of conditions of the nervous system, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS, Huntington’s, multiple sclerosis, stroke, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury,” said Dr. Iacovitti.

In recognition of the gift, Jefferson renamed the lobby of its Health Professions Academic Building – located at 901 Walnut St. – in Mr. Strauss' honor.