USC researcher Dr. Justin Ichida honored as a champion in the fight against ALS


August 1, 2017 – Los Angeles, California    

The ALS Association Golden West Chapter has announced its honorees for the 2017 Champions for Care and a Cure benefit to be held on Saturday, December 2, 2017. Held at the luxurious Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, this one-night-only special event features wine tasting, gourmet dinner, auction, entertainment, and presentation of the Golden West Chapter’s Essey Awards to notable heroes of the ALS community. The prestigious Essey Awards, named in honor of one of the Golden West Chapter’s founders, Richard “Dick” Essey, are given annually for outstanding efforts in support of our mission priorities in ALS research, care services, and public policy initiatives.

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 Justin Ichida, PhD  

The Chapter will recognize stem cell researcher Justin Ichida, PhD with the 2017 Essey Commitment to a Cure Award for his outstanding achievements in the fight against ALS. Dr. Justin Ichida is an Assistant Professor of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC) and a New York Stem Cell Foundation-Robertson Investigator. He grew up in Hawaii, where he developed an interest in science after reading Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park. After studying molecular biology at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), he investigated the early origins of life on Earth by attempting to recreate primitive life in a test tube during his PhD studies at Harvard University. Dr. Ichida then leveraged what he learned about synthesizing biological systems to identify a way to convert human skin cells into nerve cells. At USC, the Ichida Lab now uses this approach to identify therapeutic targets for ALS by studying nerve cells generated from patient skin and blood samples. Dr. Ichida is also a member of the California ALS Research Network and hosted their annual summit at USC in January 2017.

Other 2017 Essey Award honorees will include:

Chris Gardner and The Hollywood Reporter are the recipients of the 2017 Spotlight Award, for their commitment to raise ALS awareness through their compassionate and detailed coverage of Hollywood publicist Nanci Ryder’s ALS diagnosis and progression with the disease. Since 2014, they have shared her story and that of those colleagues and friends in the entertainment community who have rallied behind her in support.

The Tanzman Family, including Joy, Susan, Debbi, and Ron, are the recipients of the 2017 Cornerstone Award for their unwavering support of the ALS community through the Golden West Chapter’s fundraising, awareness and advocacy initiatives over the past 15 years.

Proceeds from Champions for Care and a Cure will provide funding for The ALS Association Golden West Chapter’s mission priorities in care services, public policy, and cutting-edge global research toward effective treatments and a cure for ALS. For tickets and more information, visit www.ALSChampionsLA.org.