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McKamish Inc. : A Gift to Support Vascular Research at UPMC

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In October of 2011, David “Buck” Buchanan — a longtime McKamish Inc. employee — was managing a project at the University of Pittsburgh.

The project — a new research lab for the Vascular Medicine Institute — was in its final stages when Buck suddenly passed away. At the age of 58, he suffered an aneurism.

McKamish Inc., a mechanical contracting company in Pittsburgh, has a long history of giving.

Shocked and saddened over the loss of their friend, Buck's co-workers decided to do something special in his memory. They donated to UPMC through the McKamish Family Foundation, an extension of their company’s charitable efforts. 

David McKamish, president and CEO says:

“Our company was founded under the principles of being able to help and give back, and being good stewards in the community. We decided that it would be very fitting and appropriate to make contributions towards the VMI lab itself, seeing as Buck suffered from a vascular condition.”

The Link Between Metabolic Syndrome and Blood Vessel Diseases

In 2012, McKamish made a generous gift to support research in metabolic syndrome. This condition is a major risk factor for blood vessel diseases, including aneurysms.

By definition, a person has metabolic syndrome if they have a large waist size and two other features, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood triglyceride levels
  • Low levels of HDL (the good cholesterol)
  • High fasting blood sugar
  • Known type 2 diabetes

UPMC Makes Strides in Metabolic Syndrome Treatments

Led by Kara Hughan, MD, under the direction of Mark Gladwin, MD, the research funded by McKamish helped:

  • Develop a new potential treatment for the metabolic syndrome (defined by high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes).
  • Establish proper dosage and safety for a novel drug called sodium nitrite.
  • Create FDA-approved oral formulations of nitrite.
  • Do the first safety and dosing studies in human normal volunteers.

Seeing the progress that UPMC was making, the company thought it was vital to continue supporting their work.

With further support from the McKamish Family Foundation, a clinical trial is underway. The trial will see if sodium nitrite improves blood pressure and glucose levels in patients with the metabolic syndrome.

“The research is phenomenal, and these have been outstanding people to work with in the community,” David says. 

McKamish made a second sizable contribution in 2015 to fund a follow-up study of adults with obesity and metabolic syndrome. The plan is to offer future pediatric clinical trials targeting this condition in children.

Providing this early intervention in kids with metabolic syndrome may:

  • Improve their quality of life during childhood.
  • Allow them to move into adolescence and adulthood as happy, healthy individuals.

Dr. Gladwin explains:

“The gifts that we received from the McKamish Family Foundation are truly helping us develop new medicines that aim to reduce the complications of the metabolic syndrome.

The fact that their support originally was in memory of Buck makes it extra special. Our team knows that we're not only honoring his legacy but continuing the type of work that he knew was vital.

We're so grateful for their continued commitment to our mission.”

David hopes their contributions will lead to even more progress in medicine and eventually help eliminate vascular diseases.

He says:

“We’re very sorry how this partnership came about, but pleased we're able to work with VMI. Many good things have already come out of it, and we expect the relationship to continue.”

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