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April 27, 2004
For immediate release

Contact: Kara Gavin
Kallie Michels
(734) 764-2220

April 27, 2004

Heinz C. Prechter Fund for Manic Depression to become donor-advised fund within the U-M Health System

Fund will continue to raise & grant funds for bipolar disorder research at U-M

ANN ARBOR, MI — Joining forces to fight one of the least understood and most devastating mental illnesses, the University of Michigan Health System today announced that the Heinz C. Prechter Fund for Manic Depression will transfer its assets to become the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund within the Health System.

Since 2001, the Fund has honored the memory of Michigan entrepreneur and business leader Heinz C. 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. Worldwide, depression is associated with the loss of 850,000 lives every year, according to the World Health Organization.

Now, in its ongoing effort to find the genetic causes and potential cures for bipolar disorder, the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund will support genetic bipolar research at the U-M.

This new legal status, which will be effective immediately, means the Fund’s fundraising and granting 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 tragic 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 U-M President Mary Sue Coleman, Ph.D. “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 Robert P. Kelch, M.D., 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.”— more —New partnership for U-M and Prechter Fund — page 2 

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

In the last three years, the Fund has built the Prechter Bipolar Network, a group of research institutions whose scientists have competed for and won grants to support bipolar research. The Prechter Bipolar Network will continue.

Recently, the Fund awarded one of its 2004 network grants to the U-M Depression Center, to support the work of a young researcher in pediatric bipolar disorder. Ongoing grants from the fund to U-M units will support research focused on the genetic causes of bipolar disorder, aimed at finding a cure. The Fund will also honor its prior pledges to support researchers from other institutions in the Prechter Bipolar Network.

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.

Under the new relationship with U-M, 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. Day-to-day management of the fund’s resources will be handled by the University’s investment managers.