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Dale L. Rindlisbacher Endowed Chair in Neurodegeneration Awarded to Stefan M. Pulst, MD, Dr. Med

The gift of $1 million has created the Dale L. Rindlisbacher Endowed Chair in Neurodegeneration Research, with Stefan M. Pulst, MD, Dr. Med, Chair of the Department of Neurology, as the chair holder.

Dr. Pulst, the Rindlisbachers, Finlayson, and Hill
Pictured from left to right: Jay Rindlisbacher; Jane Rindlisbacher; Julie Rindlisbacher; Greg Rindlisbacher; Stefan Pulst, MD, Dr. Med; Samuel Finlayson, MD, MPH, MBA; and Christopher Hill, D.Phil.

Dale L. Rindlisbacher Endowed Chair in Neurodegeneration Awarded to Stefan M. Pulst, MD, Dr. Med

On Friday, September 15, Stefan M. Pulst, MD, Dr. Med, Chair of the Department of Neurology and distinguished researcher, was honored with an endowed chair position as the inaugural chair holder of the Dale L. Rindlisbacher Endowed Chair in Neurodegeneration Research. This is the second endowed chair position in the Department of Neurology; the Fred and Christine Fairclough endowed chair position was the first endowed chair, and KC Brennan, MD, is the chair holder.

An endowed chair award is the most meaningful and prestigious recognition that a university can bestow on a faculty member. The faculty member’s research is financially supported by the endowment of funds, made possible through the generosity of visionary donors, most often named after the donor or in honor of a specific individual.

“For donors, endowed chairs serve as a legacy by linking the honoree’s name to the scholarship and research they have helped to make possible,” said Sam Finlayson, MD, MPH, MBA, the Interim Dean of the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine, during his introduction to the event on Friday.

Further, an appointment to an endowed chair enables the chair holder to secure the recognition they deserve and ensure their research continues moving forward.

“The beauty of endowed chairs is that they provide continuous support and forge a special bond between the chair donor and the holder of the chair,” said Dr. Pulst. His research investigates adult-onset neurodegeneration.

His laboratory studies usually begin with genetic analysis of human families, followed by modeling of the disease process by introducing the mutations found in the families into cells or mice.  His group has been interested in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)/frontotemporal dementia (FTD), and in the spinocerebellar ataxias, which are inherited, progressive, neurodegenerative diseases that affect the cerebellum (a part of the brain primarily concerned with coordination of movement). A particular interest is spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 (SCA2), which is caused by a mutation in the ATXN2 gene that the Pulst group discovered 30 years ago.

More recently, Pulst’s laboratory has been examining how the RNA-binding proteins ATXN2 and STAUFEN-1 modify cellular processes in ways that might contribute to several different degenerative diseases, including ALS, SCA2, and perhaps others. The findings may be generalizable to many diseases because they involve fundamental cellular responses to stress.

The Rindlisbacher gift, dedicated to the legacy of Dale L. Rindlisbacher, aims to drive critical research into neurodegenerative conditions, particularly Parkinson’s disease (PD). Dale himself lived with the condition for 25 years, from his diagnosis in 1995 until his passing in 2020.

“He knew how important it was to keep moving even when things got tough,” said Dale’s brother, Jay Rindlisbacher. “He was a great example of a person that wants to . . . do as much good and accomplish as much as he possibly can.”

Greg Rindlisbacher, Dale’s son, spoke about how his father’s journey with PD inspired him to make a difference: “He definitely wanted to give back. He said, ‘I want to research Parkinson’s so that maybe one day we can find a cure, make people who suffer with Parkinson’s suffer a little less.’ It was his hope, and now it’s our family’s hope, that one day we can cure this awful disease.”

Dr. Pulst has exciting goals for this endowment. “We want to provide a new approach to neurodegeneration,” he said during his remarks at the ceremony. “As science sometimes works, the treatments we develop may actually also apply to . . . other neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, FTD, ALS, and many others.”

The Rindlisbacher contribution supports research that aims to bring about new insights into how neurodegeneration works. These discoveries, in turn, will hopefully lead to new treatments and understanding for those who live with these conditions. It is this combination of philanthropy and science that paves the way for a brighter future, where diseases like PD no longer cast their shadow.

Dale L. Rindlisbacher

Dale L. Rindlisbacher was a dad, grandpa, brother, uncle, friend, and “champ of Ashley Valley Junior High.” Some of his proudest accomplishments were the orchestras he taught, the success of his company, and his children becoming Eagle Scouts, serving missions, and marrying in the temple. He passed away peacefully in 2020 from complications from COVID, after decades of living with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Dale is survived by his siblings, his children, 39 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren.

Dr. Pulst

Stefan M. Pulst, MD, Dr. Med, is Professor and Chair of Neurology. His clinical and research interests focus on inherited diseases of the nervous system with an emphasis on spinocerebellar ataxias, ALS, and Parkinson´s disease. He received his medical school and neurology residency training at Medizinische Hochschule, Hannover (Germany), and at Harvard Medical School, Boston. His group uses molecular tools to identify genes causing human brain diseases and to develop gene-based therapies. An antisense oligonucleotide that his group developed is currently in a clinical trial for ALS. He has been awarded numerous patents and honors; among them are the Cotzias Prize for neuroscience from the American Academy of Neurology and the Sindhal Award from the World Federation of Neurology. He is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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