Five Takeaways from the Ann Romney Center Launch at the Wang Theatre
The medical, political, and sports communities were out in full force Tuesday evening at the Wang Theatre, where Brigham and Women’s Hospital hosted an event to launch the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases. The $50 million endeavor will focus on research and treatments for the five most complex brain diseases: multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, and brain tumors.
Ann Romney, 65, who was diagnosed with MS in 1998 at age 49, has been receiving treatment from her doctor, Dr. Howard L. Weiner at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and became fascinated with his work and the work of his research partner Dr. Dennis J. Selkoe.
After walking the “blue” carpet and speaking with media, there was a presentation on stage introducing the new center, an informative video explaining the breakthroughs in research, and then guests (who included Celtics legend and President of Basketball Operations, Danny Ainge, Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III, and Marc Mezvinsky, an investment banker and husband of Chelsea Clinton) were led on the stage to take their seats for dinner.
Below, five takeaways from the evening:
1. These are the doctors who could really cure these neurologic diseases. Maybe not tomorrow, but yes, someday. Dr. Selkoe (below, right) has been studying Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s three decades. “We helped discover the basic facts that have led many drug companies to start trials for Alzheimer’s and we are already in stage three [of the A4 trial],” he says. “The concept of the sticky protein called the amyloid protein that builds up and short circuits nerve cells came in large part from our work, which we wrote up back in 1990. Now, we have made a new discovery in Parkinson’s, based on our Alzheimer’s work, but that still has much further to go.”
Dr. Weiner, (below, left) who has been treating Romney, says that when it comes to MS, the breakthroughs have been extraordinary. “When I started working on MS 30 or 40 years ago, there were no treatments,” Weiner says. “I would sit with someone and say, ‘We don’t have a treatment.’ Now, we have treatments, and we have a big MS center to take care of our patients.”
2. Ann Romney is kicking MS’s ass. She’s stunning, well-spoken, and clearly fighting with every breath she takes, not only for herself, but for the 50 million people in the world living with a neurologic disease. “[I’m fighting for] treatments for people that have no hope,” Romney says. “For me, that’s the first step for people who are suffering from ALS or from Alzheimer’s, and offering more treatments for people with Parkinson’s, and more treatments for the terrible train tumors that have no potential treatment. We are finding some real exciting research, and we are working with doctors across the county and across the world.”
3. This is an ambitious project. This is not an instance where a celeb or public figure just throws some money at a project to get their name on a building and then calls it a day; the Romneys are heavily invested—and not just with cash—in this undertaking and plan to see it through until the end. Romney says that she will be spending a lot of time in town to see this project through to fruition. Also, the center is not just about finding new and better treatments for MS; it will focus on finding treatments and eventual cures for all of the devastating neurologic diseases.
4. Mitt Romney is not running for President. When asked by the Herald if he’s running, Romney quipped to the swarming microphones: “All I’ve got to say on that is I’m not running, I’m not planning on running, and I’ve got nothing to add to that story.” Which is good, since technically we were there to learn about the amazing medical innovations the $50 million center will be involved in, and not there to speculate who will represent the GOP in the next election. Speaking of that…
5. The Christies and the Romneys are buds. “It’s great to be with Mitt and Ann,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said when asked what the couple was doing in town. “They’re really great friends of ours and that’s why we’re here. They are involved now in this exciting part of their lives, and this is a wonderful thing for Ann to be leading.”