Thanks to a unique public, private, institutional partnership among the state of Tennessee, Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), and hundreds of donors, the Live Like Lou Foundation is pleased to announce the hiring of neuroscientist Véronique Belzil, PhD, MS, as Director of ALS Research at VUMC, effective January 8, 2024.
This position was made possible by a powerful grassroots community effort to raise $3.5 million through Live Like Lou’s It’s a Whole New Ballgame for ALS Research campaign. Launched in 2020, this campaign seeks to leverage the excellent research capabilities and reputation of the Vanderbilt medical community to establish new, pre-clinical, and innovative ALS science at this top-tier research institution.
“Nearly one year ago today, we shared that we were just $100,000 away from our $3.5 million goal for phase one of this campaign,” shared W.L. Gray Jr., chair of the Live Like Lou Foundation Board of Trustees. “Today, we have not only reached this goal, but we’ve successfully secured more than $5.1 million to seed Dr. Belzil’s work leading pre-clinical, novel science investigations.”
Earlier this fall, the state of Tennessee granted $1.5 million to Live Like Lou to further its work to advance ALS research through this campaign. Governor Bill Lee and the Tennessee State Legislature have funded $2.5 million to Live Like Lou’s efforts to date.
We are grateful to the many friends of Live Like Lou—many of whom are living with ALS or have served as caregivers—who have championed our efforts in Tennessee and beyond to bring the hiring of this position from a dream to reality.
Dr. Belzil comes to Vanderbilt from the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. “Dr. Belzil is a recognized leader in ALS research whose state-of-the-art experimental approaches are well suited to synergize with VUMC’s strengths in genomics and bioinformatics and our goal of making health care personal,” said Dane Chetkovich, MD, PhD, chair of VUMC’s Department of Neurology.
“Thanks to the partnership with the Live Like Lou Foundation, Vanderbilt was able to recruit Dr. Belzil to establish the first basic science lab in Tennessee and one of a few in the country that is solely dedicated to fighting this terrible disease. Recruiting Dr. Belzil is an important step forward for Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and most importantly, the patients and families who need us to do everything we possibly can to find a cure for ALS,” he continued.
Dr. Belzil is no stranger to Live Like Lou. She was the inaugural recipient of the Live Like Lou Foundation’s Career Development Award in 2019. In 2021, she partnered with other Live Like Lou researchers and won the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Transformative Research Award, providing $9 million for their effort to identify the molecular and genetic mechanisms that cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
“I am looking forward to establishing a world-renowned collaborative and translational ALS research center by prioritizing open science, teamwork, interdisciplinary expertise, and national and international collaborations,” Belzil said. “The Vanderbilt ALS Research Center will become a natural extension of my own laboratory’s mission: develop patient-centered approaches to quickly bring findings from bench to bedside so ALS becomes curable.”
With the phase one goal of the It’s a Whole New Ballgame for ALS Research campaign complete, the Live Like Lou Foundation Board of Trustees is eager to consider what comes next at VUMC. Live Like Lou is proud of its work to advance ALS research and we believe today’s investments in ALS discovery will produce tomorrow’s trials, treatments, and cures for Lou Gehrig’s disease.