Charles and Daneen Stiefel of Raleigh, N.C., have given $1.3 million to support research at Duke Medicine that focuses on a group of diseases that compromise the immune system and increase the risk of infectious diseases and lymphoma.
The Stiefels' gift will support research into the genetic mechanisms that give rise to Common Variable Immune Deficiency (CVID). Patients with this condition have low levels of infection-fighting antibodies, leaving them more susceptible to illness and facing a 10-fold increase in the risk of developing lymphoma, a type of blood cancer that begins in white blood cells called lymphocytes.
The research is principally being conducted by Patricia Lugar, M.D., M.S., assistant professor in the Department of Medicine’s Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine.
"The Stiefel family's support for research of this type helps advance our knowledge and furthers our mission of transforming medicine through innovation and discovery," said Victor J. Dzau, chancellor for health affairs and CEO of the Duke University Health System. "Advances in patient care come about only through research like this, and we are very grateful to Charlie and Daneen."
President Richard H. Brodhead said the gift will have far-reaching effects.
"We are fortunate to have such wonderful partners as Charlie and Daneen, who have given their time and energy to Duke University and Duke Medicine," Brodhead said. "Their generous gift will help our researchers generate insights that will have an impact for patients not only here at Duke, but in the wider community as well."
The research funded with the Stiefels' gift will build on the work done earlier by Lugar and Sandeep Dave, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Medical Oncology, that defined the genetic makeup of CVID. Lugar's new research will further explore the mutations that lead to CVID in an effort to improve the ability of physicians to promptly and accurately diagnose the disease.
Currently, a lack of good diagnostic tests means people with CVID sometimes go undiagnosed for months or years, leading to unnecessary suffering and, in some instances, premature death.
"Dr. Lugar and Dr. Dave have made significant advances in our understanding of the genetic mutations that result in CVID," said Nancy C. Andrews, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the Duke University School of Medicine. "The work they are poised to do now will help us better understand how those mutations arise and the specific role they play in producing defective immune systems. Ultimately, we hope their research will help lead to more effective therapies to prevent and treat CVID and reduce the risk of associated conditions such as lymphoma. We are extremely grateful to the Stiefels for their continued support of research at Duke."
The Stiefels' most recent gift follows other support they have provided for CVID research by Lugar and Dave in 2011. They have also supported Duke Athletics. Charles Stiefel serves on the Duke Medicine Board of Visitors.
The gift will contribute to the progress of Duke Forward, the $3.25 billion Duke University-wide fundraising campaign launched last September. Duke Medicine has a campaign goal of $1.2 billion for "Medicine that Changes the World."
"Given that most of my career was spent in the pharmaceutical industry, I have always been extremely interested in medical research, particularly in the areas of cancer and immune disorders, both of which have negatively impacted my family directly," Charles Stiefel said. "I was extremely pleased with the data generated by Dr. Lugar and Dr. Dave, which have resulted in several important publications in scientific and medical journals. Consequently, Daneen and I wanted to maintain the momentum by funding the next phase of their research, which will not only elucidate further our understanding of the specific genetic mutations that cause CVID, but will hopefully also uncover new ways to treat this disease."
Charles Stiefel has 31 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. He was chairman and CEO of Stiefel Laboratories, Inc., a family-owned specialty dermatology company founded in 1847. He joined the company as general counsel in 1982 and was subsequently named vice president and then president. Stiefel Laboratories was the world's largest privately held pharmaceutical company specializing in dermatological products, with nearly 4,000 employees in 30 countries, before it was sold to GlaxoSmithKline in 2009 for $3.6 billion.
Charles Stiefel was born in Catskill, N.Y. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Yale University and a law degree from Albany Law School. In addition to being a member of the Duke Medicine Board of Visitors, he serves on the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors and the North American Clinical Dermatologic Society Board of Directors, among other professional memberships. Professional honors include a Lifetime Achievement Award by the South Florida Dermatological Foundation, Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year in Health Sciences for the state of Florida, and a Distinguished Service Award by the American Academy of Dermatology.
Since July 2009, he has served as a consultant in the pharmaceutical industry, working with several companies in the specialty pharma sector.
Daneen Stiefel is a graduate of Douglass College who has worked as a psychiatric social worker, child protective caseworker, elementary school teacher, travel agent and meeting planner. Most recently she served as Vice President of Travel, Meetings and Conventions at Stiefel Laboratories.
The Stiefels have two children, one of whom is a Duke University alumnus.