Fondren Foundation commits $15 million to Houston Methodist to pioneer treatments for digestive and immunologic disorders

The Fondren Foundation has made a $15 million commitment to Houston Methodist to support the Food and Health Alliance, the Immunology Center and to create the Fondren Inflammation Collaborative, a new multidisciplinary program that will provide hope for people with complex allergy, immunologic, autoimmune and GI conditions. 
Currently, there isn’t a comprehensive program of this nature in Houston or this region of the U.S. This program will advance progress in understanding complex diseases at the intersection between food, the gut microbiome and the immune response. Those who suffer from gastrointestinal disorders, such as Crohn’s, colitis, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome; immunological disorders, such as lupus, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease and immune deficiencies; and serious food allergies could all see benefits in terms of improved diagnosis and treatment. 
“Patients with these complex conditions often travel from doctor to doctor for years in search of a proper diagnosis and treatment,” said Rob Fondren, past chair of The Fondren Foundation. “Recognizing the challenges faced by these patients and their families, The Fondren Foundation’s vision is to close the gap in patient care by building an international destination of hope and relief for people with these complex, often intertwined conditions and their underlying inflammatory triggers. A central hub focused on these debilitating disorders would fill a significant gap in the Texas Medical Center.” 
To do this, the Fondren gift will be used to strengthen and expand two Houston Methodist programs – the new Immunology Center at Houston Methodist and the Food and Health Alliance, within the Lynda K. and David M. Underwood Center for Digestive Disorders, led by Dr. Eamonn Quigley. The mission is to create a one-stop location for patients in both areas to tackle the most challenging diseases within these specialties. The Fondren Inflammation Collaborative will be created to understand how inflammation impacts immunologic and gastrointestinal conditions with multicenter clinical trials to follow that will focus specifically on innovative treatments. 
“It has been our family’s great privilege to play a role in Houston Methodist’s growth over the past century and bear witness to the innovative contributions Houston Methodist has made to the world of medicine,” said Fondren Foundation member David M. Underwood Jr., who is also a member of the Houston Methodist Board of Directors. “Our family’s vision now, in choosing Houston Methodist for this gift, is to provide patients and their families with the most complete, personalized and medically advanced understanding and treatment for their digestive and immunologic health.” 
Eight members of the Fondren family have served on the hospital board for a combined 189 years. In addition, many other family members have served and continue to serve on various councils and task forces. 
“Houston Methodist would not be where it is today had it not been for the leadership of the Fondren family,” said Marc L. Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist, who also holds the Ella Fondren and Josie Roberts Presidential Distinguished Centennial Chair. “There is really no family more unparalleled in the history of Houston Methodist. They have contributed to this institution for essentially 100 consecutive years. It’s astonishing and humbling the contributions this family has made generation after generation.” 
Ultimately, the Fondren Inflammation Collaborative will be extended to other disease areas impacted by inflammation, such as the heart, brain, cancer and behavioral health, among others. The gift will also fund four endowed chairs to recruit and retain the best minds in the world, as well as support research, education and counseling and to train the next generation of physician scientists.