Robert Jacobs is no stranger to neurological disease: He lost his father to Alzheimer’s disease, and was himself diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome a decade ago.
So the Buddy’s Pizza president takes neurological research personally, and has demonstrated his commitment with a remarkable gift to the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery (PNR&D): He will match up to $500,000 to support research into environmental toxins and their potential link to Alzheimer’s disease.
“Sometimes people make a gift because of family issues or other people’s issues, but I have my own issues,” he said. “My father had Alzheimer’s disease and I’ve had my own syndrome. I believe in Eva (Feldman) and the University of Michigan. It’s pretty simple. It’s actually to make a difference.”
Earlier this year, PNR&D Director Eva L. Feldman, MD, PhD, along with Stephen A. Goutman, MD, and others, published a study that showed a high percentage of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) had been exposed to agricultural pesticides. The Jacobs gift gives the PNR&D a jump start on a similar study of Alzheimer’s patients.
“This incredibly generous gift from Bob gives us a chance to make genuine headway in understanding environmental causes behind the growing incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in our aging population,” Feldman said. “By making it a matching gift, Bob has in effect doubled down on this research. We’re excited at the opportunity.”
Jacobs was diagnosed a decade ago with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disorder that causes the immune system to attack nerves, causing muscle weakness, tingling and paralysis. And while the syndrome wasn’t necessarily a result of toxins Jacobs has long held an interest in environmental toxins and their impacts on human health.
“This gives the team more money to do something with,” he said. “Hopefully this gift will allow them to draw the correlation between toxicity and Alzheimer’s disease. Then the question becomes what you do with that information. With the extra money you can do so much more.”
The need for intensified Alzheimer’s disease research has never been greater. The disease affects 5.2 million people in the United States, a number that is expected to double by 2050. The national cost of caring for the AD population is estimated at over $200 billion annually, according to the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institute on Aging. Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by an accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain which, over time, injure and kill brain nerve cells. As the nerve cells are lost, so is a person’s ability to think, reason and function normally.
About Buddy’s Pizza: Buddy’s Pizza – Detroit’s Original Sicilian Style Square Pizza – was introduced at Buddy’s Rendezvous, a bar in Detroit, in 1946. The business was purchased by Jacobs’ parents, Billy and Shirley Jacobs, in 1970. Today, Buddy’s has 11 locations throughout Metro Detroit.