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$15 million gift establishes Appel Alzheimer's institute at Weill Cornell

A $15 million donation from Helen and Robert Appel will establish the Appel Institute for Alzheimer's Research at Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC). The institute will seek to unite researchers in neurology, neurogenetics, biochemistry and microbiology, with the goal of better understanding the debilitating disease, developing treatments and eventually finding a cure.

The donation, part of WCMC's recently announced $1.3 billion Discoveries That Make a Difference research campaign, will fund development of institute facilities inside WCMC's planned 350,000-square-foot Biomedical Research Building. The gift also will ensure that the Appel Institute is able to attract, develop and retain the highest possible level of research talent from a variety of clinical backgrounds.

Robert Appel, who graduated from Cornell's College of Arts and Sciences in 1953, is a member of the WCMC Board of Overseers, co-chair of the Discoveries That Make a Difference campaign and a Cornell trustee emeritus. Helen Appel, who graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1955, is a former high school teacher and an avid historian.

"Alzheimer's disease represents one of the most pressing health issues in the world today, and medical science still has much to learn about this condition," said Antonio M. Gotto Jr., the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of WCMC. "Fortunately, due to support from generous donors such as Helen and Robert Appel, Weill Cornell will continue to be a leader in the quest for greater knowledge of this disease."

The institute will unite researchers and clinicians across Cornell's Ithaca and New York City campuses, said David Hajjar, vice provost and dean of the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences.

"By employing an interdisciplinary approach to the study of this condition, researchers at the Appel Institute will be able to obtain groundbreaking insights into the physiology of the disease," Hajjar said. "Instead of simply following existing clinical protocols, these diverse research collaborations will offer a 360 degree view of Alzheimer's."

"It is our hope that the research conducted in this new institute will eventually help lead to a cure for this terrible and debilitating disease," said Robert Appel. "Helen and I have witnessed the devastating effects of Alzheimer's firsthand. It is our sincere hope that this institute will provide the resources necessary to help increase understanding of the disease and one day help find a cure."

In 2002 the Appels gave $15 million to support the second phase of the Cornell Ithaca campus Residential Initiative, a living and learning environment for upper-level students on West Campus. At the same time, Cornell renamed the Ithaca North Campus Community Commons in the Appels' honor.

Among the couples' endowments on the Ithaca campus are the Robinson-Appel Humanitarian Awards, which honor students who demonstrate humanitarian values and service; the Robert J. Appel Professorship in Molecular and Cell Biology; the Robert J. Appel Cornell Tradition Fellowship; and the Robert and Helen Appel Fellowships for Humanists and Social Scientists to recognize faculty members in these fields who demonstrate excellence in teaching and show great promise as scholars.

The Appels also have endowed the Helen and Robert Appel Clinical Scholar at WCMC.