September 22, 2015

DHF donates $50,000 to cystic fibrosis research at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU

By Leha Byrd
University Public Affairs
Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015

As a 7-year old elementary school kid racing go-karts in Amelia, Virginia, Denny Hamlin was as conscientious as he is now about the disease he saw disturb and debilitate the life of his older cousin, Kevin Jones.

“When [Denny] was in go-karts, we’d have the cystic fibrosis logo on the cart,” said Mary Lou Hamlin, the NASCAR driver’s mother. “His heart has always been with CF.”

Mary Lou Hamlin was recently at Virginia Commonwealth University to present a $50,000 check on behalf of her son’s nonprofit, the Denny Hamlin Foundation. The organization is the namesake of Hamlin, a popular NASCAR driver raised in Chesterfield. The funds will support a stipend and research efforts for a designated Denny Hamlin Scholar to conduct research on new types of inflammation in the airways, a product of cystic fibrosis.

Mary Lou Hamlin presented the check at the Hermes A. Kontos Medical Sciences Building at VCU Medical Center.

“Cystic fibrosis is close to us. I have a nephew who has CF. So we’re just trying to do what we can to get this thing knocked out,” she said. “It’s near and dear to our hearts to do what we can. It would be nice to have it knocked out in his lifetime.”

On average, individuals with the disease live 37.5 years, statistics say. To date the disease has no cure. Jones is now 37.

CF is a fatal genetic disease that affects about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide). CF causes chronic infections in the lungs and inadequate digestion of nutrients. There is no cure for cystic fibrosis, but medical advances have doubled the life expectancy of children in the past 30 years and increased the overall median age of survival to 38.

CF symptoms include persistent coughing, at times with phlegm, frequent lung infections including pneumonia or bronchitis, and poor growth or weight gain in spite of a good appetite.

Bruce Rubin, M.D., is professor and chair of the VCU Department of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief of Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. He heads VCU’s Rubin Laboratory, where research for cystic fibrosis occurs.

Rubin said the foundation’s recent donation is essential and appreciated. In 2012, the Denny Hamlin Foundation presented a $150,000 check to ChoR.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Denny Hamlin Foundation, we have been able to accelerate the discovery of new therapies for cystic fibrosis. We have been able to enhance research collaboration to increase our understanding of the nature of CF lung disease, and we are excited that a new medication discovered at VCU is now undergoing testing,” Rubin said. “Just as important, the Denny Hamlin Foundation funds are supporting a scientist in training to become a CF research scientist. It is through the generosity of the Denny Hamlin Foundation and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation that we hope that CF will come to mean ‘Cure Found.’”

Michael Davis, a Ph.D. candidate at VCU, is the most recent Denny Hamlin Scholar, and will research the disease and its effects for the next two years. “I’m grateful because I’m approaching the most important years of my career thus far, and I couldn’t do it without them,” said Davis, adding that his past three years of study at VCU have been funded by Denny Hamlin Foundation donations. “I’m proud to do this work.”

Since CF is a progressive disease, Rubin said funding to continue research is imperative.

“With research we may be able to measure when individuals are better and changes we can fix,” he said. “I can’t thank the Denny Hamlin Foundation enough for giving us the tools to train.”

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