Several cardiovascular research projects at Masonic Medical Research Institute received critical funding that could improve heart health globally.

Preventing and Treating Heart Disease

Roughly 695,000 Americans die of heart disease every year, which is one in every five deaths in the country. The most common type of heart disease is coronary heart disease, or CHD, which kills over 375,000 people every year. It's estimated 1 in 20 adults over the age of 20 have CAD

It has also been found that 5,000 Americans have a heart attack each year. That amounts to a heart attack every 40 seconds.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say between 2018 and 2019, Americans spent $239.9 billion on heart disease. The number included health care services, lost productivity due to health and medicines.

Thanks to the hard work from MMRI, these numbers could go down after receiving significant funds from the American Heart Association, which will fully fund several critical projects.

A New Chapter

In a press conference on Tuesday, it was announced that MMRI was awarded $499,000 by the association. MMRI Executive Director Maria Kontaridis was one of the recipients to have her project fully funded.

WIBX/Megan Stone
WIBX/Megan Stone

Kontaridis explained she is researching a possible link between congenital heart defects and autism. She received $73,432 via a Transformational Project Award. She thanked the heart association or its "generous support" and expressed confidence the latest round of funding will make significant strides in the treatment and prevention of heart disease.

Postdoctoral fellow in the Kontaridis Laboratory, Luana Nunes Santos, Ph.D., was another recipient. She was awarded a $133,480 diversity supplement award, which will be used to assist in Kontaridis' research.

WIBX/Megan Stone
WIBX/Megan Stone

Another project that was recognized is being researched by postdoctoral fellow Khanh Ha, Ph.D., and Max Majireck, Ph.D.,who also is an associate professor of chemistry at Hamilton College. The pair are researching a new drug delivery system that would target the plaque found in atherosclerosis, which is a leading cause of deaths in adults globally.

Money was also secured for Nathan Tucker, Ph.D., of MMRI. He secured a $200,000 Innovative Project Award for researching the influence genetics have n the risk of severe cardiovascular disease.

What This Means

The event was capped off by heart disease survivor Ryan Leogrande, who also served as a Red Cap Ambassador to America's Greatest Heart Run & Walk last year.

WIBX/Megan Stone
WIBX/Megan Stone

He explained in an emotional speech that this particular funding and the projects it will benefit means the world to those living with heart disease.

After watching myself flatline, I made a number of life changes, including diet and exercise. Like the great projects of the American Heart Association is funding at Masonic Medical Research Institute, those changes are part of the research of the American Heart Association. My three sons, my wife and I support the American Heart Association so that other dads can be around to watch their children grow up.

Looking Ahead

America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk celebrates its 50th year in 2024, and there will be massive changes coming to the event.

The community event was inspired in 1971 when legendary WIBX personality Ralph Allinger died of a heart attack. The annual tradition took shape in 1974 when a group of runners sprinted from Barneveld to the old WIBX studio building in Clark Mills. The event has grown tremendously since then and, currently, is helping to fund three major research projects in the Mohawk Valley.

The event will commence on March 2.

WIBX/Megan Stone
WIBX/Megan Stone

Committee members also revealed the WIBX Heart Radiothon, which will once again be sponsored by Slocum-Dickson, will also return. Of course, the infamous Treadmill Challenge will also be up and running.

For those seeking more information about America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk, to be a corporate sponsor, or to register and begin building teams, visit or email or visit HERE.

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