Funding New Pathways To A Cure

Dear Classmates:
This letter comes from eight of your classmates. We want to tell you about
an ambitious plan we’ve been working on for nearly a year, one that
requires a team far larger than the eight of us. Our plan has everything to do
with picturing a future, distant or not, without Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) or
Parkinson’s Disease (PD), and a present, where labs work collaboratively
and in partnership with each other on new paths that lead to eradicating
these linked diseases.

We know how widespread this class of diseases is. In America alone, one
of us is diagnosed with AD every 65 seconds; for PD, every nine minutes.
This is simply untenable, especially for the Baby Boomer generation. We’ve
seen our parents and grandparents die of these illnesses. Now, far too
many of our own close friends, family, classmates and peers have been

This fight is ours. And it’s as personal and urgent as it gets. We have the
will, the muscle, and the heart as a generation to take on big issues. And
we number in the tens of millions. So, rather than waiting for good news to
emerge from the labs, what if we become part of the solution and work
together to help shut these diseases down?
To that end, we’ve assembled a select team of scientists, and one science
writer to tell you what we’ve been up to. You’ll see our names and short
bios at the end of this letter.

Our plan is unique. We’re focused first on raising money from our peers, as
they have the most to gain. Where will the money go? Directly to a carefully
selected, highly promising lab already dedicated to curing these diseases.
Over the past nine months, we’ve identified a dozen such labs in the U.S.
and Canada. While these are prestigious and generally well funded labs,
it's not uncommon for them to have worthy projects stuck on hold awaiting
targeted funding.

That’s the sweet spot for us, the place where what we’re offering is truly needed.

Of the many labs we’ve considered, one stood out – a seasoned,
innovative university lab staffed with impeccably trained neuroscientists
and neurologists: Drs. Ted M. and Valina L. Dawson Lab at Johns Hopkins
University, School of Medicine in Baltimore, part of the Institute for Cell
Engineering Neuroregeneration Program.

Here’s what’s happening in the Dawson lab, in more technical detail:

● As cell engineers, the Dawsons study neuronal cell death and
survival, the molecular roots of neurodegenerative diseases,
like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Diseases.

● If you’re asking why place these two diseases under one
research umbrella, here’s the answer. Although PD and AD are
very different, they share common mechanisms of
neurodegeneration. The Dawsons’ research focuses on the role
of these shared mechanisms, capitalizing on the opportunity to
make a substantial impact on both disorders.

● There are no proven therapies that slow the progression of PD
and AD at this time, necessitating a paradigm shift in new
approaches to treat these disorders, according to Ted Dawson.
To that end, the Dawson Lab sought, then discovered,
identified, and named a common cell death process in the brain
that, until then, remained unknown. Called Parthanatos -- one of the
messengers of death in Greek mythology -- it's a mechanism by
which cell death and eventually, neurodegeneration occur in
diseases like PD and AD. The lab went on to define the
mechanism by which Parthanatos causes cell death in
neurodegenerative diseases, a critical leap.

● From one leap to another, the lab developed PAANIB–1, a
small molecule macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF)
nuclease. MIF is an enzyme that serves as the executioner of
Parthanatos. PAANIB-1 has proved to be dramatically protective
in multiple models of PD. What’s more, emerging evidence shows
that the MIF nuclease also drives neurodegeneration in AD.

● Now poised to make the key transition from lab research to
clinical trials, the Dawsons’ next step is to advance their lead
MIF nuclease inhibitor into studies the FDA requires before a
drug can be taken into clinical trials. The money we raise would
fund a postdoc fellow to complete this step in a timely way.

● Phase I safety clinical trials could begin within 18-24 months.

We see this lab as a perfect match for us, so much so that we recently met
via Zoom with the Dawsons.That meeting sealed the deal with our
immediate ”yes” to supporting a 2023-24 postdoc fellow in the Dawsons’

We’re confident we can tap into the generosity and wisdom of our class to
raise the first round of funds to launch this endeavor. If we’re successful,
we’ll expand our model beyond our hometown peers.

Please help us slow the progression of these lethal diseases. Our goal is to
raise at least $100K. Whatever you give will be anonymous, securely held
at Johns Hopkins, and greatly appreciated.

Join us.
Donate online at

Select “The Dawson PD & AD Therapeutics Postdoctoral Fellow Fund”

from the drop-down menu, or mail a check, including the fund’s
name, to the address below.
Attn: Kevin McGuire
Fund for Johns Hopkins Medicine
Institute for Cell Engineering
733 N. Broadway, MRB 371
Baltimore, MD 21205
For questions or instructions on how to donate through other
means, contact Kevin McGuire at or 717-
Your classmates and friends,
Nancy Bronstein (
Eric Gruenstein (
Pat (Jaffe) Gruenstein (
Jim Wynne (
Classmates partnering with us:
Janet Chernela
Jeanne Lengsfelder
Arthur Levi
Steve Sharfstein
For more about the Dawson Lab:;

Team Bios:
Nancy Bronstein: MA, journalism, UC Berkeley; MA, archaeology, CUNY.
Senior Editor, science writer/reporter, College of Engineering, UC Berkeley.
Nancy covered new research emerging from the Berkeley engineering labs
for 15 years. In an earlier life, she curated a new anthropology hall at the
California Academy of Sciences in S.F. A specialist in stone tools, her
archaeology fieldwork included an ancient Aboriginal rockshelter in
Australia’s Central Desert, a Chacoan Pueblo in northern New Mexico, and
a Tsimshian burial site near Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

Prof. Eric Gruenstein: PhD, Biochemistry, Duke University
Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry & Neuroscience, University of
Cincinnati, College of Medicine. Eric’s research focuses on the cellular and
molecular basis of learning and memory. Author of numerous peer-
reviewed papers directly related to Alzheimer’s disease, Eric received the
Just Community Award from the University of Cincinnati, as well as several
teaching awards, and was elected a member in the Academy of Fellows for
Teaching and Learning.

Pat (Jaffe) Gruenstein: BS-RN, Adelphi University
Pat worked as a public health and family medicine specialist in inner city
clinics with pregnant teens providing health counseling and prenatal care.
She taught basic nursing skills at the University of Cincinnati, College of
Nursing, and for 10 years, volunteered at Cincinnati’s Children's Hospital
working with preschoolers who had Cerebral Palsy and/or Autism.

James Wynne: PhD, Applied Physics, Harvard University
Manager for nonlinear spectroscopy, laser physics, chemistry, biology and
molecular physics at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center,
Yorktown Heights, NY. Jim pioneered the use of excimer lasers for medical
applications, notably LASIK surgery; and is now testing smart scalpel
technology, an application of the ArF Excimer Laser, to remove severely
burned necrotic skin without collateral damage to underlying tissue and
adjacent viable tissue. Jim received the prestigious National Academy of
Engineering (NAE) Russ Prize, the National Medal of Technology and
Innovation, the R.W. Wood Prize from the Optical Society of America. He
was elected a Member of the NAE, elected a Fellow of the National
Academy of Inventors, and inducted into the National Inventors Hall of

Partner Classmate’s Bios

Prof. Janet Chernela: PhD w/Honors, Anthropology, Columbia University
Janet has worked among the indigenous people of the Amazon basin in
Brazil for more than three decades. Her career launched at the British
Museum of Natural History, then the American Museum of Natural History
working on a new South American Hall. Her doctoral fieldwork took her to
an “upriver” village along the Colombian-Brazilian border in Amazonia,
where she worked for 18 months: work that inspired a life of research and,
as she says, no shortage of questions. Not long after completing her initial
fieldwork, Janet joined the research faculty of the National Institute of
Amazonian Research (INPA) in Manaus as the institute’s first
anthropologist Janet taught anthropology at Florida International University for 20 years,
and then at University of Maryland for another 18. Along the way, she
tutored refugee children, worked with indigenous women domestics in
urban Brazil, and, with her students, designed the American Language
Museum’s opening exhibit on the history of writing systems.
She has served as consultant to The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Brazilian

Embassy, The Pew Scholars Program, and Cultural Survival at Harvard, to
name a few. Co-director of the Center for Research and Collaboration in
the Indigenous Americas, Janet founded and is long-term consultant for the
Association of Indigenous Women of the Upper Rio Negro (AMARN): the
first and oldest indigenous organization in Brazil.

Jeanne Lengsfelder: PhD, Psychology, UC Berkeley
Jeanne’s parents immigrated to Argentina in 1939, fleeing the Nazis. There
her father Walter Lengsfelder, a chemical engineer/perfumer, reformulated
Chanel #5 for Coco Chanel into the perfume it is today. During the war, he
and Coco exchanged letters about the perfume’s new formula, letters that
were intercepted by the FBI. Believing that “Chanel #5” was a code word,
her father was suspected of being a German spy. Years later, as a
teenager visiting Grasse, France with him, one of his colleagues pulled
Jeanne aside to make sure she knew that her father was one of the five
great perfumers in the world. He went on to develop perfumes for Revlon
and Cody in America. Jeanne’s granddaughter, Charlie, is named for one
of them.
Jeanne’s career consisted of being an Instructor in Psychology at the
College of Marin, a psychotherapist (MFC and Clinical Psychologist) in
private practice for 30 years, and a Staff Psychologist at the Berkeley
Therapy Institute. In 2000, she started using her interpersonal skills plus
her love for investments as a Realtor/Real Estate Consultant at Red Oak
Realty in Berkeley. She continues to work there now.

Arthur Levi, MBA, Finance, Columbia Business School
A long-time resident of western Europe, Arthur’s storied career in
international finance at the World Bank took him from continent to
continent. For 10 years, he worked as Senior Project Office, responsible for
loan activities in East and West Africa. For the next 20 years, he moved to
the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Investment Bank of the
World Bank Group, working in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Russia, and
China. The IFC’s key focus is investing with the private sector, providing
access via financing for projects into emerging markets. In the late 90s, he
served as knowledge manager of IFC's Financial Market groups - 1/2 of
IFC's investments, worldwide, are in financial markets. From 2000-2004, he

was head of IFC Europe, where his last post was in Paris. Retiring in 2004,
he and his wife, Jacquie, continued living in Paris until 2014, when they
moved to London.

Dr. Steve Sharfstein, MD, Psychiatry, Yeshiva University/Albert Einstein
Medical School; and M.P.A. Harvard Kennedy School of Government
A specialist in brain diseases, Steve is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at
the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Adjunct Professor of
Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and President Emeritus of
Sheppard Pratt Health System, the largest behavioral healthcare system in
Maryland. It was during Steve’s tenure there that Sheppard Pratt evolved
from a psychiatric hospital into a health system with more than 38 locations
throughout Maryland. A practicing clinician for more than 45 years, Steve is
best known for his research and writing on the economics of practice and
public mental health policy. Past President of the American Psychiatric
Association and The American College of Psychiatrists, he is officially
retired, but continues to see patients and teach residents and PhDs. He
serves on 8 non-profit boards, and has received numerous awards in
mental health and psychiatry, including the Human Rights Award in 2007
from the American Psychiatric Association. He Is Co-Editor of The
Textbook of Hospital Psychiatry (2 nd Edition, 2022).

Any publications or publicity resulting from our financial contribution will include an appropriate
acknowledgement of support from the GNHS North/South class of 1960.


Say YES  to Funding Innovative New Pathways Towards a Timely Cure for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases 

Update #2, from us and The Dawson Lab

June 26, 2023

Dear Classmates: 

We write to you with heartfelt thanks and appreciation for your support and attention to our cause, even if all you do is read our letters.

As you know, eight of us have come together to raise money to help hasten the eradication of two related lethal diseases: Alzheimer’s (AD) and Parkinson’s (PD). This is our mission. And it’s also a reminder that as classmates and, in many cases, long-term friends, we are well connected and care about each other. We’ve already lost classmates to these diseases.

This fight is personal, and the opportunity is ours. We’ve always been a uniquely pro-active generation, willing to take on worthy causes and fight to win. If we take this on together, we have a chance to slow these diseases down to a mere crawl. Not tomorrow, as this work is arduous and will take time. But with an army of help, chances are it will happen significantly sooner with us than without us. 

The good news is that this is a truly ripe time to invest in the future of innovative labs like the Dawsons’. We chose them because theirs is a lab securely on track to move the needle towards a cure for AD and PD.

Here’s a taste of the current research emerging from the Dawson Lab, followed by an introduction to Postdoc Fellow Seohyun Kim: 


Excerpts from Ted and Valina Dawsons’ 2022 annual letter:

This past year has been a good year. We published more than 20 papers. Our laboratories and research programs continue to focus on identifying novel therapeutic pipelines that can slow the progression of Parkinson’s Disease (PD), Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), and related neurodegenerative disorders

First, we teamed up with Dr. Bruce Spiegelman’s laboratory at Harvard’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. We showed that Irisin, a skeletal muscle-derived peptide, induced by endurance exercise, is profoundly neuroprotective in an animal model of PD. Dr. Spiegelman founded Aevum, a company designed to advance the investigation of Irisin in humans. Aevum just completed its seed round of funding to develop Irisin into a ‘biologic’ to treat PD. We are excited about this possibility, since the majority of new therapeutics approved by the FDA are biologics.

Second, as you know our laboratories have been studying a unique form of regulated cell death, which we named ‘parthanatos’ after Thanatos, the Greek God of death. Parthanatos plays important roles in most neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. In a recent paper published in Cell, we identified PAANIB-1, a first-in-class inhibitor of MIF (Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor) nuclease, the parthanatos executioner. PAANIB-1 has proved to be dramatically protective in multiple models of PD.

We are particularly excited about this report since it indicates that MIF nuclease is a druggable target. We envision being able to identify additional MIF nuclease inhibitors that can be advanced into an Investigational New Drug (IND), enabling studies and ultimately, clinical trials.

We have other promising targets that have been identified through our research programs.

Ted Dawson, Ph.D., M.D. and Valina Dawson, Ph.D.


And second, meet Seohyun Kim, Ph.D., the Postdoc Fellow whose research we’re helping to fund. 

The merits of Seohyun’s work are evident in the numerous honors and awards she’s earned. An exceedingly well-published biological scientist, she has won multiple honors and awards, including the prestigious World Championship iGEMers Prize issued by the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Foundation. Most notably, her research into Alzheimer’s Disease resulted in the discovery of a new pharmaceutical composition to treat AD, for which she received a Korean patent. She joined the Dawson Lab in March, 2022. For the past 3 years, as a postdoc in Korea, and prior to that while working on her dissertation at Seoul National University, Seohyun’s research focused on Alzheimer’s Disease. Her current work at the Dawson Lab has shifted to Parkinson’s, at least for now. These related diseases share common mechanisms of neurodegeneration.


Excerpts from Seohyun’s detailed Postdoc Fellowship proposal:

Our research team is committed to exploring the complex world of neuroinflammation. We use a multidisciplinary approach that integrates molecular biology, immunology, and neuroscience. This holistic perspective enables us to identify and validate novel therapeutic targets that can be further explored in pre-clinical and clinical settings.

Our ongoing studies are exploring the potential role of a specific protein known as Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor (MIF) in neuroinflammation. Neuroinflammation is a major driving force behind neurodegeneration, and our preliminary findings hint at the possibility of MIF being instrumental in this process.

We are delving into MIF’s role in cell death, and have made significant progress developing a promising MIF inhibitor, called PAANIB-1, which has shown remarkable potential in animal models. With further research, PAANIB-1 could become a life-changing therapeutic for Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

PAANIB-1 blocks MIF activity and prevents cell death in neurons, which are critical for normal brain function. It can also have a direct impact on the complex interactions between neurons, astrocytes, and microglia, which together, contribute to the development and progression of PD.  Studying these complex interactions is essential to understanding the mechanisms underlying neuroinflammation and how it contributes to the development and progression of neurological disorders. This comprehensive understanding could revolutionize the way we understand and treat this class of diseases.

Seohyun Kim, Ph.D.


As for us, your classmates, our aim is to ignite a chain of enthusiasm and awareness for this cause that may be shared within your own circles, with the message that well-placed donations of any size really matter, even for prestigious labs. We hope to energize this effort, one group of baby boomers at a time, one meticulously selected lab at a time, one group of classmates, friends and relatives at a time, and finally, one foundation at a time. Because doing nothing is not an option. 

Please join us. We need you.

While our spirits and hopes are high, to date we have not raised nearly as much as we need. Our goal is to raise $50-100K to help support Seyohun Kim’s innovative research for at least 2 years. Any amount you give will be anonymous, securely held at Johns Hopkins, and greatly appreciated. If you’ve already contributed, thank you. And if you are inspired to do so again, we’d be especially grateful. 

Donate online at:“Select your gift designation” and choose “The Dawson PD & AD Therapeutics Postdoctoral Fellow Fund” from the page that opens. Or mail a check, including the fund’s name, to:

Attn: Kevin McGuire

Fund for Johns Hopkins Medicine

Institute for Cell Engineering

733 N. Broadway, MRB 371

Baltimore, MD 21205

For questions or instructions on how to donate through other means, contact Kevin McGuire at  or 717-321-6368. You will receive the official TAX ID information necessary for a charitable donation deduction, as well a letter of confirmation with thanks from the Johns Hopkins Development Office.


We’d love to hear from you with your thoughts and feedback.

Gratefully and in partnership, 

Nancy Bronstein (

Eric Gruenstein (

Pat (Jaffe) Gruenstein (

Jim Wynne (

Janet Chernela

Jeanne Lengsfelder

Arthur Levi 

Steve Sharfstein

Update #3, Say YES to ending Parkinson's and Alzheimer's Diseases 

March 11, 2024

Dear Classmates:
Thank you for sticking with us and being so supportive and 

generous as we continue to raise funds for the Dawson lab's 

distinguished postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Seoyhun Kim, Institute 

for Cell Engineering, at Johns Hopkins University’s School 

of Medicine. The funds we raise go entirely and only towards 

research dedicated to ending Alzheimer's and Parkinson's 


The link below takes you to our brand spanking new John Hopkins Crowdfunding Site.

Scroll through the pages with this link:

With gratitude,

Nancy, Eric, Pat, Jim, Steve, Art, Janet, Jeanne