Logos of American Heart Association and Bugher FoundationThree respected universities have been chosen to lead the next chapter of the groundbreaking collaborative research program designed to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat stroke – the second-leading cause of death in the world.

The University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Colorado at Denver and the University of Miami will be home to the newest American Stroke Association centers funded by the Henrietta B. and Frederick H. Bugher Foundation.

The universities will study a broad range of issues – including stroke in children, rehabilitation and recovery, neuropsychology and cognition – and will all work together in an innovative format used successfully in the most recent stroke research program funded by the Bugher Foundation.

“The centers will work collaboratively to accelerate scientific progress and stroke knowledge,” American Heart Association President Mariell Jessup, M.D., said Wednesday during the International Stroke Conference in San Diego. “Congratulations to these institutions. We look forward to hearing about your new discoveries.”

The Bugher (pronounced “BYEW-her”) Foundation is the most generous research donor in the history of the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association. The upcoming program will be the fourth major undertaking in this partnership, and the second to use a collaboration model encouraged by the Bugher trustees.

Known officially as the American Stroke Association-Bugher Centers of Excellence in Stroke Collaborative Research, funding begins in April for this $9 million, four-year project. Here’s an overview of the planned projects for each institution:

  • UCLA will work to determine ways to prevent the progression of stroke damage, ways to improve patient activity and recovery after stroke, and the identification of molecules in the brain that promote repair. The common focus of the studies in this program is the promotion of brain resilience and repair.
  • The University of Colorado will focus on pediatric stroke, with the goal of determining mechanisms of injury, protection and repair of brain tissue following stroke in children. It also will aim to train a new generation of pediatric stroke physicians and researchers to better understand and treat children with stroke throughout the world.
  • The University of Miami center will focus on approaches to improving cognition after stroke through two related collaborative translational projects. Cognition deficits frequently lead to reduced quality of life, and the results from these studies will help plan new approaches for improving cognition after stroke.

The last collaborative Bugher-funded research program, which ran from 2007-2012, required scientists at Duke, Harvard and the University of California-Davis to work together on stroke research aimed at prevention, while sharing everything from ideas to laboratory samples.

The centers were bonded by an Oversight Advisory Group chaired by Dr. James Weyhenmeyer, Vice President for Research and Economic Development at Georgia State University. He will continue in that role for this initiative.

The generosity of the Bugher Foundation is widely known among stroke researchers, yet the organization has otherwise kept a low profile.

Frederick M. Bugher started the foundation in 1961 following the death of his parents. Because both died from heart disease, the organization’s aim was funding research fighting it. When Frederick died in the early 1980s – also of heart disease – he left the majority of his estate to the foundation, swelling its coffers to nearly $20 million.

The organization’s trustees reached out to the American Heart Association for advice on how to make the greatest impact. A partnership began with the funding of “centers” for research in the growing field of molecular biology, with an emphasis on training young scientists. Among those inspired by the first Bugher grant was Andrew Marks, M.D., who went on to discover the drug used to greatly improve the effectiveness of coronary stents (the drug part of “drug-eluting stents.”) The Bugher trustees shifted their focus to stroke with their second funded research centers grant, and have remained leaders in this important field.