Isakson Initiative gives $1.4M to UGA Vet Med

This story, written by Amy Carter, was originally published on UGA Today on Nov. 14, 2023.

The University System of Georgia Board of Regents on Nov. 14 approved the creation of two endowed distinguished professorships, made possible by a gift of $1.4 million from the Isakson Initiative to the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.

Arthi Kanthasamy and Jason Richardson will be the inaugural holders of the Johnny Isakson Distinguished Professorship and the Dianne Isakson Distinguished Professorship, respectively. Housed in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Isakson Center for Neurological Disease Research, these professorships are named in honor of the late U.S. Sen. John Hardy “Johnny” Isakson and his wife, Dianne. Isakson, who died in 2021, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2015.

“We are grateful to the Isakson Initiative for its ongoing support of the center’s important research toward a cure for such neurodegenerative diseases as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Arthi Kanthasamy and Jason Richardson are prominent contributors to the center’s ongoing efforts to understand the underlying causes of these diseases,” said Lisa K. Nolan, dean of the college. “We are proud to be carrying on Senator Isakson’s commitment to biomedical research and development that will lead to cures for these and other devastating neurological disorders.” 

Sen. Isakson established the Isakson Initiative following his retirement in 2019 to raise awareness and funding for research into neurocognitive diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and related dementia. 

“We have been so impressed with the incredible work happening at UGA and the Isakson Center within this field. As a family, we are proud to be able to continue pushing that work forward with these professorships,” said John Isakson Jr., CEO of Upland Ventures, LLC, and Sen. Isakson’s son. “UGA has always been a special place for our family, and now, to know that they will lead the way in a cause so dear to us and important to so many, it’s become even more special.”   

Sen. Isakson’s political career began in 1976, when he was elected to the first of seven terms in the Georgia House of Representatives. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1999 and served there until he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. He was reelected to the Senate in 2010 and 2016.  

In 2017, he received the Fox Foundation’s Parkinson’s Advocacy Award for his work to improve the lives of people living with the disease and for his advocacy in funding new treatments. 

Ten months before he died, Sen. Isakson offered the final gift to close out a $4.5 million fundraising campaign to create the John H. “Johnny” Isakson Chair for Parkinson’s Research and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar position at UGA. Anumantha Kanthasamy, an internationally renowned researcher of Parkinson’s disease, was recruited to the University of Georgia to serve as the inaugural chair and director of the Isakson Center.