Jim and Louise Temerty understand the power of the math involved. That’s why the Canadian philanthropists couldn’t pass up supporting a Western-led research collaboration seeking to unlock the secrets of neurodegenerative diseases.
“We’ve got all these people doing all of this research and some of it is overlapping,” said Jim Temerty, founder and board chair of Northland Power Inc. “If only we could combine those efforts, and avoid redundancy in the work, the multiplying effect would be incredible. We could use those linkages, as well as the wonderful resources across the province, to keep addressing new and new and new, adding and adding to the knowledge.
“We were quite taken by this idea. We felt we had to support it.”
Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry announced today a $5-million gift to the university from the Temertys and the Temerty Family Foundation to advance discoveries in the prevention, early detection and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases like ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
The gift will fund a five-year study, led by Schulich Dean Dr. Michael Strong, principal investigator of the Ontario Neurodegenerative Disease Research Initiative.
“Never before, either here or worldwide, have experts in seemingly diverse diseases come together into a single collaboration to understand the basis, commonalities and distinguishing characteristics of these devastating disorders,” Strong said. “Our ultimate goal is to determine if, by studying the disease as a component of a larger whole, we can develop early treatment strategies long before the disease fully takes hold.”
The gift leverages Ontario Brain Institute matching funds to support the Ontario Neurodegenerative Disease Research Initiative and Western’s $750-million Be Extraordinary fundraising campaign, which has raised nearly $500 million to date.
The gift resonates on a personal level for Temerty, whose mother passed away from ALS nearly two decades ago.
“Right from that time on,” he said, “I started to look for opportunities to support research. That’s where it started, and it has never relinquished.”
One of those early gifts was to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. At that time, the Toronto hospital had recently established an ALS research program, under the leadership of Dr. Neil Cashman. Cashman and Strong are considered among the nation’s leading ALS researchers.
“This project is unique, not only here, but in the world, and that’s what makes it exciting,” he said. “It reflects the kind of country and people that Canada and Canadians are. We can do this. We can get people together to cooperate around something. Of the giving we have done, this is the only one that involves this kind of consortium-building.
“It is a testament to the kind of folks who call themselves Canadians.”
Jim Temerty is an entrepreneur with more than 40 years of business experience. Before establishing Northland Power in 1987, he had a successful career in computer-related companies, building the world’s largest chain of Computerland franchises and guiding Softchoice Corporation to its position as a leading North American provider of technology solutions and services. He was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2008 and awarded the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2010 for Canada.
The Temertys have a long history of philanthropy, led primarily by investments in health-care research.
One million Ontarians currently suffer from a brain disorder; one in three Canadians will be affected by a neurological or psychiatric disease, disorder or injury at some point in their life. Given Canada’s aging population and the high incidence and prevalence of neurodegenerative disorders, discovering methods of early diagnosis will make a significant impact on treatment therapies while alleviating the economic burden of the disease.
“We are extremely pleased and thankful to the Temerty Family Foundation for their confidence and support through this significant gift,” said Western’s President and Vice-Chancellor Amit Chakma. “At Western, we believe that research and discovery are keys to creating the potential to significantly improve people’s lives.”
This is the first Western project the Temertys have supported. However, the family connections to the university are not new. Their daughter, Leah (Temerty) Lord, BA’02 (Huron), and son-in-law, Michael Lord, BA’01 (Huron), both graduated from the Western affiliate.