By Sandra Bretting
Eighty years ago, in the midst of the Great Depression, Harold and Alta Longenbaugh arrived in Katy to launch a small rice farming operation. That operation grew to become one of the largest land holdings in all of Harris County at that time.
Today, the Gillson Longenbaugh Foundation honors the couple’s memory by providing seed money for physicians and scientists who are in the early stages of their research. Most recently, the foundation contributed $200,000 to support researchers at Texas Children’s Cancer Center.
When the foundation gives its support, it takes the unique approach of personally getting to know individual researchers who are launching cutting-edge studies the foundation wishes to support.
“We identify researchers who have the imagination and the talent to undertake these promising and novel studies,” said Lawrence I. Levy, president of the foundation. “Because we have a noted scientist on our own board—Dr. Neal Pellis—we get to know and fully understand the projects we are interested in funding.”
He continued, “It has been a great experience to work with Texas Children’s. I know I speak for all of our directors when I say that we feel fortunate to have such talented researchers to support.”
In addition to Levy and Pellis, the Gillson Longenbaugh Foundation’s board includes E.W. “Ned” Torian, who has enjoyed a working relationship with David Poplack, M.D., director of Texas Children’s Cancer Center and Hematology Service, for almost 18 years. During that time, the foundation has given $1.7 million to the Cancer Center team for their research.
The Gillson Longenbaugh Foundation’s most recent contribution supports the work of six different Cancer Center scientists including Ching C. Lau, M.D., Ph.D., who heads the molecular neuro-oncology laboratory and the cancer genomics program. Lau is studying ways to predict which diagnoses require aggressive cancer treatment, which may bring with it the risk of increased complications, versus using more moderate treatments, which reduce the risk of damaging healthy brain tissue. Lau also is studying the use of genomes—which are the sequences involved in DNA—to predict the likely outcomes for patients with various cancer diagnoses.
The gift also supports Karen Rabin, M.D., and her work with children diagnosed with both Down syndrome and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Rabin is a member of the leukemia and lymphoma team.
Far from the rice fields of Katy, the Longenbaughs’ legacy lives on in the laboratories at the Cancer Center and in the lives impacted by the discoveries these researchers are making.