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Media Contact: Joann Rodgers
Phone: (410) 955-8659
E-mail: jrodgers@welchlink.welch.jhu.edu

The Baltimore Orioles have announced plans to establish the $1 million Cal Ripken/Lou Gehrig Fund for Neuromuscular Research at Johns Hopkins University. The fund will be earmarked for research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease because it claimed the life of the former Yankee great.

On Sept. 6 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Cal Ripken is expected to break Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games played. To commemorate the event, the Orioles, having gained an exemption from the American League, will add 260 VIP seats to the field just beyond the first-base and third-base sides and make them available to the corporate community.

The field seats will cost $5,000 each, with the proceeds going to Johns Hopkins. Along with an opportunity to witness baseball history from the playing field, those purchasing the tickets will attend a pre-game reception, receive a special commemorative ticket that will be framed along with a photograph autographed by Ripken, their actual field seat with a customized streak logo, special parking and a chance to meet Cal and Kelly Ripken along with a guest at a cocktail party following the season.

Orioles Chairman of the Board/Chief Executive Officer Peter Angelos said, "Cal Ripken's achievement has provided us with a wonderful opportunity to not only raise awareness but to also raise funds for ALS research. This is a very historic event for the entire country but obviously has a deeper meaning in Baltimore. The fact that some of the country's foremost researchers of Lou Gehrig's disease are based here at Johns Hopkins University is especially gratifying. Hopefully, this effort will be a major step toward finding a cure for this deadly disease."

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive, terminal disease affecting the neuromuscular system. There are between 10,000 to 25,000 people afflicted with ALS in the United States at any one time, with 3,000 to 5,000 new cases diagnosed annually. It is projected that 300,000 healthy Americans alive today will develop, and die from, ALS.

Daniel Nathans, M.D., Nobel laureate and interim president of Johns Hopkins University, said, "The University greatly appreciates the opportunity given our scientists by the Orioles organization and Cal Ripken. The proceeds from the benefit will establish indispensable support for research and tie Hopkins to the values and generosity of two great athletes.

"The Fund will play a critical role in enabling a team of dedicated investigators to bring the benefits of research to patients with Lou Gehrig's disease and related neuromuscular disorders. Those who made this gift possible have our deep thanks for their clear understanding of the relationship between research and the development of effective treatment," Dr. Nathans said.

Ralph W. Kuncl, M.D., associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins, added, "Our research team has worked hard since the early 1980's to find the cause of and cure for Lou Gehrig's disease. We find it inspiring to reflect that these are the same years in which Cal Ripken has pursued Lou Gehrig's 'Iron Man' streak. And this year, the year Cal is slated to pass Gehrig's mark, is also the year in which we have made a major contribution to the first treatment of the disease."

Kuncl concluded, "We are humbled to be joining with Cal Ripken and the Orioles in the fight against Lou Gehrig's disease, and we are deeply grateful to Peter Angelos and his committee of business leaders who made this happen. We could not be more excited about finishing the job for our patients."


Johns Hopkins has one of the largest groups nationally of clinicians diagnosing and providing comprehensive care for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients. Hopkins also has one of the world's largest and most diverse groups of scientists and clinician-scientists studying the causes and treatment of ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease).

Research from Hopkins' laboratories has provided a basic understanding of what factors may contribute to ALS; and recently, Hopkins research supported national and international trials of the drug Riluzole, the first successful treatment for ALS. Riluzole blocks some of the release of glutamate, a common chemical that neurons in the brain use to communicate. In excess, glutamate can be toxic to brain cells. The Hopkins research was crucial in revealing the way in which glutamate may damage motor nerve cells and the reason why there is a defect in glutamate detoxification in ALS patients.

The therapeutic effects of Riluzole are modest in humans, but nevertheless it is considered an important first step to more effective treatment. The drug is currently being considered for FDA approval. In the meantime, a limited supply has been made available through a random selection process.

Hopkins physicians also have organized a local ALS support group, which has been helping patients and families learn about and manage the disorder for more than 10 years.

More than 200 new ALS patients are referred annually to Hopkins from the local community, nearby states, and countries around the world. In the last nine years, eight local, national and international clinical trials for ALS treatments have taken place at Johns Hopkins. More than 230 patients have participated in these trials and are followed closely for long-term care.

For ALS referrals, call Johns Hopkins at (410) 955-6435.


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