Cedars-Sinai receives $20M to create Kao Autoimmunity Institute

Dec. 11, 2019

Cedars-Sinai today announced a $20 million gift from Dr. and Mrs. Min H. Kao and the Kao Family Foundation to create the Kao Autoimmunity Institute to advance research and treatment of rheumatologic diseases.

The gift also will establish the Scleroderma Program within the institute to provide interdisciplinary and integrated care for scleroderma patients and to support research, outreach, training and education to help those with the disease.

"Our family is fortunate to be in a position to partner with an academic medical center that places a premium on patient care and game-changing medical research," said Dr. Min H. Kao. "We truly hope this gift will enable Cedars-Sinai to develop a nationally recognized institute that brings lifesaving treatments to those who experience debilitating diseases."

More than 80 autoimmune diseases affect an estimated 24 million people in the U.S., according to the National Institutes of Health. Patients suffer from a broad spectrum of disorders, including scleroderma, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, myositis, multiple sclerosis, Grave's disease, inflammatory bowel disease and Type 1 diabetes. These diseases are thought to be caused when the immune system—meant to defend against illness—begins attacking the body's own organs, tissues and cells.

Clinical leaders and research scientists at Cedars-Sinai say the Kao gift will lay the groundwork for important medical advances in understanding autoimmune diseases and provide for the creation of a Scleroderma center of excellence.

The new Kao Autoimmunity Institute and Scleroderma Program will be part of the Cedars-Sinai Department of Medicine. They will bring together clinicians, investigators and allied health professionals from a variety of disciplines across Cedars-Sinai and its affiliated hospitals and care sites. The institute and program will be led by new directors, along with a new director of the Division of Rheumatology.

"The Kao family gift creates a unique opportunity to assemble the best researchers and clinicians together to better understand autoimmune diseases and to develop more effective treatments for our patients," said Paul W. Noble, MD, chair of the Department of Medicine and director of the Women's Guild Lung Institute.

"Our investigators will have the opportunity to improve patient care and outcomes by studying disease onset and progression, as well as the key roles the microbiome, endocrine system, genetics and gender may play in autoimmune diseases that disproportionately affect younger people and women," Noble added.

Cedars-Sinai and the Kao family share a common goal of identifying personalized treatments for patients with autoimmune diseases, moving beyond a one-size-fits-all treatment approach.

"We are committed to scholarly discovery of how best to distinguish autoimmune disease subtypes and to use personalized genetic and clinical information to develop safe, targeted therapies for individual patients that lead to improved health outcomes," said Shlomo Melmed, MB, ChB, executive vice president of Academic Affairs and dean of the Medical Faculty at Cedars-Sinai.

"This important gift by the Kao family recognizes the work of our talented investigators and medical staff and their dedication to tackling the most challenging diseases," Melmed added. "We have a great deal of work ahead of us. The Kao family's support and partnership are invaluable in that quest."

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