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Updated 4:00 PM May 18, 2004



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Prechter Fund to become donor-advised fund within UMHS

The U-M Health System (UMHS) has announced that the Heinz C. Prechter Fund for Manic Depression will transfer its assets to become the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund within UMHS. It is part of an effort to fight one of the least understood and most devastating mental illnesses.

Since 2001, the fund has honored the memory of Michigan entrepreneur and business leader Prechter by raising and granting funds for research on the disorder that led to his death by suicide. Manic depression, also known as bipolar disorder, causes brain chemical imbalances that lead to deep depressions, manic episodes and suicidal impulses in an estimated 2.7 million Americans.
The fund's grant-making and
fund-raising activities will be directed toward manic depression-related projects throughout the University.

The new legal status means the fund's grant-making and fund-raising activities will be directed toward manic depression-related projects throughout the University. It will continue its mission of supporting breakthrough research in psychiatric genetics, pediatric bipolar disorder, neuroimaging and neuroscience.

"Together with the strength of the University of Michigan, we will have a better chance of going forward to find a cure," says Waltraud (Wally) Prechter, who has directed the fund's activities since founding it in late 2001 after her husband's death. "I am thrilled that we have been able to forge this fund at the U-M."

"This partnership will enhance and build upon the work that has already begun through the fund's efforts over the past three years, and we look forward to a long-term relationship as Wally advises us on the allocation of these funds," says President Mary Sue Coleman. "I know that Wally's passion for finding a cure, combined with these resources, will spur our researchers in many fields to accelerate their investigations."

Adds Dr. Robert Kelch, executive vice president for medical affairs and CEO of UMHS, "There's so much we don't know about bipolar disorder, and so much potential to translate research findings into clinical practice to help patients today and tomorrow. With the Prechter fund and name behind us, I know we'll go far."

The new fund builds on the existing close ties between the University and the Prechter family and fund. Heinz and Wally Prechter both were early champions of the U-M Depression Center, which formally was approved by the Board of Regents only a few months after Heinz Prechter's death.

In the last three years, the fund has built the Prechter Bipolar Research Network, a group of research institutions whose scientists have competed for and won grants to support bipolar research. The Prechter Bipolar Network will continue, and the fund will honor its prior pledges to support researchers from other institutions in the Prechter Bipolar Network, including a recent grant to the Depression Center to support the work of a young researcher in pediatric bipolar disorder.

Under the new relationship, Prechter will retain a leadership role in soliciting further donations to the fund and promoting the work of the scientists who receive grants from the fund. Researchers in all areas of the University, including the Depression Center, Mental Health Research Institute and Life Sciences Institute, will be eligible to compete for the funds in an annual grants competition.

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