An Enid couple has given $1 million to the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. The donation from Lew and Myra Ward will create a new endowed chair at OMRF.
The Lew and Myra Ward Chair in Biomedical Research will concentrate on the study of Alzheimer’s disease or lymphoma. OMRF has not yet designated a scientist to hold this new chair.
The Wards, who grew up in families that made their living in the oil and gas business, both graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1953. Together, they formed L.O. Ward Oil Operations and Ward Oil Co. Today, Ward Petroleum, an independent exploration and production company, operates more than 350 wells and has been named one of America’s fastest growing private companies by Inc. magazine.
For the Wards, the decision to give to Alzheimer’s was driven by a desire to help not only those who suffer from the disease, but patients’ loved ones as well.
The chair will emphasize research on lymphoma, a type of cancer that attacks the body’s lymph system. That choice has a personal basis: The couple’s daughter-in-law recently was diagnosed with the disease. “Hopefully this will help with great advancements in the treatment of both Alzheimer’s and lymphoma,” said Lew Ward.
OMRF scientists already have made important contributions to fighting both Alzheimer’s disease, which affects an estimated 4.5 million Americans, and lymphoma, which saw 66,000 new cases in 2006.
Led by Jordan Tang, Ph.D., OMRF researchers have created an inhibitor for the enzyme believed to cause Alzheimer’s disease. They have made steady progress transforming this discovery into a drug to treat the disease, and they hope to begin human clinical trials of an experimental Alzheimer’s drug in 2007.
In another OMRF laboratory, Paul Kincade, Ph.D., and his colleagues have discovered two new cell types they believe have special jobs in the immune system. This work holds promise in revealing how abnormalities in hormone production could lead to lymphoma. And such discoveries could, in turn, lead to new therapies for the cancer.
Lew Ward is a past chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the recipient of its “Roughneck of the Year” award. Last month, he was named to the Enid Public School Foundation’s Hall of Fame, and he recently was selected to receive the 2006 Governor’s Art Award.
Myra Ward has served on many boards, including the board of Visitors for the University of Oklahoma Press, the board of directors of the Oklahoma Heritage Association and the board advisors for OU’s Geology and Geophysics Program. Along with her husband, she spearheaded fund-raising efforts for the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Museum in Enid.