Vertex Pharma Hands Out $400,000 in Scholarships to CF Patients and Family Members


Birmingham, Alabama resident Emily H. will be able to pursue her dream of studying elementary education ad Auburn University due in part to a $5,000 scholarship awarded by Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

Emily is one of 80 people to receive $400,000 in scholarship money provided by the Boston-based pharma company as part of its “All in for CFScholarship program. Emily, like many of the 80 recipients for the 2018-2019 academic year, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

“Throughout my time in high school, I was able to get involved in various activities within my school, community, and church. I was determined to not let CF hold me back from accomplishing my dreams. In dealing with my experiences related to CF, I have learned that one can overcome anything they set their mind to,” Emily H. (full last name was withheld for privacy by Vertex) said on a website detailing many of the stories of scholarship recipients.

Another recipient, Patrick M., will use his $5,000 to study biochemistry at Truman State University, which is located in Kirksville, Missouri. Patrick has not been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis but is the sibling of a patient.  In a brief statement on the Vertex site, Patrick said he would advise people to research care tactics for CF in order for them to “come to terms with the disease.” Once they did that, Patrick suggested that it would be wise to become involved with awareness and advocacy groups.

“But most of all, don't give up hope; be optimistic about the research currently in progress. Look forward to medical advances,” Patrick said.

Emily and Patrick are just two of the individuals helped by the Vertex scholarship program, which is now in its second year. This year the Boston-based company that specializes in the development of treatments for cystic fibrosis, provided 80 scholarships worth $5,000 each. This was the second year for the company’s scholarship program. Last year Vertex doled out 40 scholarships. Vertex said the giving was increased in order to “help more people in the CF community.” The funds are provided to help CF patients and their immediate family members pursue two-year, four-year or graduate degrees. The Vertex scholarship program is part of the company’s 10-year, $500 million corporate giving commitment.

Jenny Livingston, a CF patient studying psychology at Utah State University, credits the All in for CF program as the “difference between continuing my education and putting my studies on hold.” Livingston said she feels a “deep gratitude” for the scholarship as she does not know if she would have completed her bachelor’s degree without it.

“From people living with cystic fibrosis returning to school following lung transplants, to brothers and sisters inspired by their sibling’s courageous fights, the determination of All in for CF Scholarship recipients is remarkable,” Jeffrey Leiden, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Vertex said in a statement. “They are examples of the many families who inspire us in our relentless pursuit to discover and develop transformative CF medicines.”

There are an estimated 75,000 people in North America, Europe and Australia who have cystic fibrosis. Patients diagnosed with cystic fibrosis typically experience difficulty breathing due to a thickening of the mucus lining the lungs. That buildup can cause chronic lung infections and progressive lung damage in many patients that eventually leads to death. The median age of death is in the mid-to-late 20s.

Earlier this year Vertex gained approval for Symdeko from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The approval marked the third CF treatment Vertex has had approved in the United States. Vertex already markets CF drugs Kalydeco and Orkambi.  

The scholarship recipients were chosen by an independent committee of CF community members based on a submitted essay and an applicant’s "demonstrated level of community involvement, financial need, and academic achievement." Applications for the 2019-2020 academic year will be available in the fall and more information about the program can be found on the Vertex website.

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