Innovative medical research that uncovers improved treatments for life-altering diseases takes place every day at Dalhousie’s Faculty of Medicine. Unfortunately, competition for public dollars can be fierce, leaving many researchers struggling to fund projects that could ultimately change the face of healthcare. At DMRF, we think this is significant and we proudly provide our researchers with broader funding opportunities, thanks to the generosity of our donors. That’s why we are pleased to work with Garry and Mary-Lou Pye, who, between 2015 and 2016, gave $125,000 to Parkinson’s disease research, and recently committed another $275,000 to be paid out over the next five years. This major gift of $400,000 is directly supporting the crucial work of researchers who are striving to stop diseases like Parkinson’s in their tracks.
Parkinson's disease is a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that mainly affects the motor system. Current Parkinson's disease therapies are focused on providing relief of symptoms, and not on preventing the disease from progressing. While alleviating the challenging symptoms of Parkinson’s is important, preventing its progression would improve the quality of life and longevity of the 10 million people living with the disease worldwide. With this viewpoint in mind, Dalhousie researcher Dr. Chris McMaster and his team are working on a drug target that has the potential to prevent Parkinson’s disease progression.
“Our research in genetics and genomics here at Dalhousie is world-leading,” says Dr. McMaster. “By leveraging our strengths in this area and assembling interdisciplinary research teams to maximize our outcomes, we expect our new treatment for Parkinson’s patients to prevent the progression of this destructive disease.”
That’s important news to Garry, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a little over five years ago. While the progression of his disease has been slow, he is acutely aware of how vital research is for him and the millions of others affected by Parkinson’s. That’s why three years ago, Garry and his wife made their first gift to Dr. McMaster’s trailblazing work in Parkinson’s disease research.
“I met Dr. McMaster and was made aware of research being funded by the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation,” explains Garry. “I began to realize how import providing financial support was to enable researchers to leverage additional funds to their work. Dalhousie Medical School’s Parkinson’s research is world-class and I am honoured and pleased to be asked to give back to such immense work.”
Giving back is just what Garry and Mary-Lou have done for decades in their community of Truro, Nova Scotia and beyond. Starting with one small retail store in 1972, the Pye's, their family members and business partners, have built a group of businesses ranging from Toyota and General Motors automobile dealerships to custom mouldings, real estate, and tire distribution. One of the businesses, the Blue Water Group has grown to span the country from St. John's to Vancouver and includes oil distribution, offshore drilling support, and warehousing and logistics services. The family companies now employ 455 people, each of whom play integral roles in their operating results.
“The success we have enjoyed in our businesses has enabled us to give back to our communities,” explains Garry. Health and wellness have been at the forefront of this giving, seeing Garry, in the past, as Chair of the Colchester East Hants Health Authority and the Colchester Hospital Foundation. Medical research was a logical next step.
The next four years are critical for Dr. McMaster and his team as they strive to accelerate the development of a novel drug. New funds from donors like Garry and Mary-Lou have helped garner monies from organizations such as the Atlantic Innovation Fund, enabling talent to be recruited to the project while accelerating drug development and essential testing. The end result will be better outcomes for people living with Parkinson’s disease.
“I have the utmost respect for Dr. McMaster and his team,” says Garry. “For both personal and societal reasons, I support their impressive research. There are a great number of people living with Parkinson’s and I know research being done somewhere – hopefully here at Dal – will make life easier for them.”