Cold Spring Harbor Lab honorees include Michael J. Fox

Struggling with Parkinson's for much of his life,

Struggling with Parkinson's for much of his life, Michael J. Fox founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation in pursuit of a cure. He still acts in addition to his activism. (Oct. 24, 2011) (Credit: AP)

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, at a celebration Wednesday night, will honor actor and Parkinson's disease advocate Michael J. Fox, Apple Inc. chairman and former Genentech executive Arthur D. Levinson, and Long Island health philanthropist Mary Lindsay for their advocacy and monetary support of biomedical research.

Leaders of the world-renowned laboratory are to award each honoree a Double Helix Medal during the gala event, held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Manhattan.

"We're closer than ever to the cures patients need," Fox, 51, said in a statement. The actor was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1991 and has since raised nearly $300 million for research into its causes and treatment. "I'm humbled to be in the company of Art and Mary, and all previous Double Helix awardees, in receiving an honor that pays tribute to the vital power of scientific inquiry."

The event, in its seventh year, will raise more than $3 million for research that focuses on understanding the genetics underlying cancer and other diseases, with the goal of designing better drugs and diagnostic tools, said Charles Prizzi, the laboratory's vice president of development.

Among the research it will fund is that of researcher Adrian Krainer, who discovered a new drug therapy that improves the muscle function of children with spinal muscular atrophy, a childhood form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The drug entered Phase I clinical trials this year.

"We are hopeful that this will enable children diagnosed with this disease in the future to walk again," Prizzi said.

As former chief executive of the biotech firm Genentech, Levinson, 62, led the company during its development of a new generation of cancer therapies -- Herceptin, Avastin and Rituxan.

Mary D. Lindsay, 93, a Laurel Hollow resident who got her nursing degree from Columbia Presbyterian School of Nursing in 1945 and worked as a nurse until she married in 1950, has been a donor to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

She has been a member of the boards of Planned Parenthood; Friends of UNFPA, the nonprofit organization that supports the work of the United Nations' population fund; Pathfinder International; and the Columbia University School of Nursing. Lindsay is the sister-of-law of the late New York City Mayor John Lindsay.

The gala also commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Nobel Prize awarded to James D. Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins for their discovery of the double helical structure of DNA.

Watson currently holds the title of chancellor emeritus at the laboratory. He became its director in 1968 and was named president in 1994. The lab's current director is Bruce Stillman.

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