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Albert Rose gives $1 million for pulmonary research

By Leigh E. Rich

Denver businessman Albert Rose recently donated $1 million to start the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, an organization that will be dedicated to research concerning the cause of and treatment for the respiratory disease.

“I took an examination about a year or so ago. I went to a doctor and he decided I had some sort of lung disease,” Rose said. “I was on medication for about 90 days and the problem didn’t get any better.”

So Rose made an appointment with Dr. Marvin Schwarz, who leads the Interstitial Lung Disease program at National Jewish Medical and Research Center. Dr. Schwarz informed Rose he had idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

“Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, probably the most common form of pulmonary fibrosis,” Dr. Schwarz explained, “is one that is very frequent and we don’t know what the cause is.”

Rose said Dr. Schwarz told him, “There really isn’t a cure for that now.

“So he and I decided to form the foundation because there is never enough money to do the research.”

Dr. Schwarz added, “[Rose] came to me as a patient and it was really his desire to do something for people with this problem.

“The goal is to make this a national foundation with money raised from private parties.”

Respiratory ailments are the fourth leading cause of death in the US, including pulmonary fibrosis—a disease in which the alveoli or “air sacs” of the lungs, where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged, gradually scar over and eventually interfere with the transfer of oxygen from the lungs into the bloodstream.

Currently there is no effective treatment for pulmonary fibrosis, which is often fatal, and patients can succumb within two to three years after diagnosis. Most cases of pulmonary fibrosis occur in adults, although young children are sometimes affected as well.

According to the new organization’s two founders, the disease receives little attention at the national public health level.

“It’s perceived that not many people are affected by it,” Dr. Schwarz said. “That’s completely the wrong perception. Probably more than a couple hundred thousand people in the US—25-30% of all patients with the disease—have idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

“There’s a lot more money needed for research in this area. We think there are probably 5 million people affected worldwide. It’s as bad as having cancer for some patients, but cancer patients often survive much longer.”

The causes of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis are unknown, thus slowing down the research process. Some researchers believe this disease is caused by an autoimmune disorder, a viral infection or a genetic predisposition.

Rose thinks there could be a hereditary link. “I didn’t smoke, and I didn’t work in the coal mines. The only thing is it might be hereditary. My younger sister died from it and my brother has it now, too.”

When Rose received his diagnosis, he decided he wasn’t going to just “sit and wait for the undertaker,” especially when Dr. Schwarz told the real estate and finance businessman that with increasing knowledge of the disease and sufficient funding, therapies could be forthcoming.

“So I said to Schwarz, ‘You’re the medical man, and I’ll do the fundraising. I’ll start the fund by giving a million bucks.’ We expect to raise a lot of money.”

The primary purpose of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation includes development of a cure and a means to improve the quality of life of those affected, by supporting both basic and applied research in pathogenesis, genetics, epidemiology and novel therapies.

“It’s more of an idea than a foundation yet,” Dr. Schwarz remarked. “But we already have tax-exempt status, we’re on the Web, we have selected a medical scientific board, and we’re in the process of hiring a director.”

“We’re optimistic that we’ll hit pay dirt,” Rose stated hopefully. “We’re going to give it a real good try, a real good try. It’s a very tough disease to cure, but [scientists] are working on it.”

Rose’s contribution provides funding for research and treatment as well as educational resources.

Because many patients lack the advantages of early diagnosis, the foundation also will support diagnostic and treatment centers specifically concentrated on these services.

“We expect to be very aggressive on this thing,” Rose added.

Rose, originally from New York, moved to Denver 54 years ago, after being stationed at Lowry Air Force Base during WW II from 1943-1946. In 1946, he moved back to the Bronx but didn’t stay long.

Later that year, Rose said, “I came out to Denver, Colo. like many other GIs. This was the promised land. It was the best thing I ever did.”

Dr. Schwarz, who also heads the Division of Pulmonary Sciences at CU Health Sciences Center and serves as the James C. Campbell professor of pulmonary medicine, has been named to the foundation’s board of directors alongside other physicians and medical scientists.

The board will oversee a competitive, peer-reviewed grant application process, among other duties.

“We’ll have a very, very active board. We’re going to concentrate on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, but we hope to discover other things as we go along,” said Rose.

“What we want to do is reach other patients and families of patients who want to be involved,” Dr. Schwarz said.

Many respiratory diseases have no known cures and are considered terminal.

Information: Dr. Michael Rosenzweig, (720) 932-7850 or 

Rich, L.E. (2000, October 6). Albert Rose gives $1 million for pulmonary research. Intermountain Jewish News.

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