The Wayne State University School of Medicine held a reception to honor an Oakland County couple for their financial gift to support research into new therapies for Parkinson's disease and other neurological conditions.
The reception, held Dec. 20 in the WSU Department of Neurology, recognized Sindgi Dattu Sastry, Ph.D., and Pushpa Sastry, who gave $1 million to create the Sastry Foundation Clinical Neuroscience Endowed Research Fund to support research in the Department of Neurology.
"This is a tremendous gift for medical research," said Dean Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., during her presentation at the reception. "The Sastrys' commitment to funding research - as well as their support of our School of Medicine - will serve as a wonderful example for others for decades to come. Contributions such as theirs are especially meaningful because the endowment will continue to fund research that will help millions of people around the world. Gifts such as these are all the more valuable given how challenging securing government research grants has become."
The dean presented the couple with a plaque engraved with the words "The Sastry Foundation Advanced Imaging Laboratory," a replica of the name plate outside the laboratory their gift supports.
"We were surprised by this large gathering," Dr. Sastry said. "The School of Medicine is very important to us. Thank you again."
The Sastrys, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., are the owners of Jogue Inc., one of the nation's largest developers and producers of flavors and fragrances for food and other products. Dr. Sastry, a chemist, now serves as vice president of the company that he and his wife founded in 1984. Jogue Inc., which distributes its products around the world, has facilities in Plymouth, Northville and Detroit, and in California and Florida.
The gift to fund the research comes from the Sastry Foundation, an organization the couple founded to give back to the community.
"We hope this gift encourages others to contribute to research," Mrs. Sastry said. "People need to contribute to the society they live in to help the common good."
The newly established fund will immediately assist the work of Dr. Omar Khan, interim chair of the Department of Neurology. Dr. Khan is an internationally recognized researcher in the field of therapeutic development, genetics and imaging of neurodegenerative disorders.
At the reception, Dr. Khan announced that the Sastrys' gift already has had significant impact. Their support helped the department obtain a 3D-OCT machine for retinal imaging, which will allow researchers to correlate brain tissue injury to retinal ganglion injury in neurodegenerative disorders. That facilitated the department securing a $626,128 Novartis Competitive Research Grant.
"The support you have shown will continue to have so many applications for so many years, and will continue to make a difference in so many lives around the world," said Dr. Khan, who noted that the lives and companies that the Sastrys have built truly demonstrate "hard-working people who represent the American Dream."
The gift is the Sastrys' third to the School of Medicine. In 1998, they established the Sri Yalgurdrao and Ganga Kulkarni Endowed Scholarship Fund. Named in honor of Mrs. Sastry's grandparents, the endowment funds scholarships for eligible medical students from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. They created the Shivappa V. Hulbanni, M.D., Endowed Scholarship in 1999 in memory of their good friend, "to remember him as a great humanitarian."
The Sastrys have two sons, Ashok, 37, and Anil, 34. Ashok Sastry, M.D., a 2001 graduate of the WSU School of Medicine, specializes in nephrology and practices in Sarasota, Fla. Anil Sastry, a 2003 graduate of the WSU Law School, is the chief executive officer for Jogue Inc.