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Carmel couple donating $45M to University of Maryland

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An Indiana couple is making a $45 million donation to the University of Maryland School of Medicine, which will use the money to establish a research center to study autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

Ken Cafferty, identified as a Carmel businessman who works in mining in Indiana, and his wife, Shelia, made the donation Thursday morning. They said Shelia Cafferty, a nurse, suffered for years with severe symptoms until Dr. Alessio Fasano, a celiac disease researcher, diagnosed her with gluten sensitivity.

Fasano will direct the new center, which will study celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and Type 1 diabetes.

The center will initially include 13 faculty members, and will employ as many as 200 when it is up and running.

The gift is the largest private donation in the history of the University System of Maryland.

Forty million dollars of the donation is coming from a private foundation in which the Caffertys are key stakeholders, the university said. The remaining $5 million comes directly from the Caffertys and will fund an endowed distinguished professorship that supports a director position in perpetuity.

Fasano's studies have found that about one in 133 Americans suffers from celiac disease, and that the condition often begins later in life.

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  • Praise for Donation by Caffertys
    As a former resident of Carmel, IN and CHS graduate, I am proud to see other Carmel residents contributing to such a worthy cause. Two of my sons, niece and brother have celiac disease; my father died from complications of life-long undiagnosed celiac disease. We are ecstatic to see that the University of Maryland is dedicated to research on autoimmune diseases which plague families in clusters. I have MS, my youngest son Grant has Type 1 in addition to his celiac, and other autoimmune conditions run rampant in our family. Grant has also endured brain surgery to remove a baseball size cyst, a recent onset of kidney failure, complications from Type 1 and celiac -- yet says if ONE could be cured soon, he would choose a cure for CELIAC DISEASE!!!! Thank you Caffertys, and thank you Dr. Fasano. Time to unlock the secrets of autoimmune disease. Julie Costakis

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