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New Jersey businessman supports TGen's research into bipolar disorder

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Aug. 2, 2010 - In memory of his son, a 59-year-old New Jersey businessman plans this week to support bipolar disorder research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) by swimming the English Channel.

International business executive Martino Caretto trains for this week's attempted swim across the English Channel, an effort to raise funds for TGen's bipolar disorder research in memory of his son, Richard.

Martino Caretto, an Italian-born executive of an international confectionary business, Ferrero, will relay swim the more than 20 miles from Dover, England, to Calais, France, as a fundraising effort in memory of his son, Richard.

Richard Caretto, who is remembered as a generous person with a sharp wit and sensitivity to social problems, was always an outstanding student and athlete. At The Lawrenceville School, a private high school near Princeton, N.J., he was a varsity runner in cross country and track, a writer for The Lawrentian school magazine, and a volunteer who worked with underprivileged children and patients with dementia.

Richard Caretto

Richard was a 21-year-old college student with the smarts and potential to do just about anything he wanted in life. But on April 30, 2009, Richard took his life, and was gone forever.

It was not the first time Richard had attempted suicide, nor was it the first time his sometimes-bizarre actions were ascribed to a mental condition that in many ways remains a mystery to science - bipolar disorder.

Also known as manic-depressive illness, bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes severe shifts in mood, dramatic changes in energy and activity levels, and an inability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

Unlike the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through, the radical symptoms of bipolar disorder can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and suicide. It often starts in late teens or early adult years. But is not easy to detect, and some people suffer for years before they are properly diagnosed and treated.

Since Richard's death, the Caretto family identified TGen's genetic research into bipolar disorder as the nation's most promising, and the one that they want to fund. While swimming the English Channel for charity has been done before, this is believed to be the first to specifically support bipolar disorder research.

Martino worked with the TGen Foundation to create a personal fundraising web page, www.tgenfoundation.org/netcommunity/martinocaretto, which allows donors to contribute to specific research areas most important to them. Martino's personal fundraising page for bipolar disorder research, presented in both English and Italian, is the first international fundraising effort led by an individual on behalf of TGen.

Martino's attempted crossing will be supervised by an official of the Channel Swimming Association, www.channelswimming.com.

"For open-water swimmers, the English Channel is like what Mount Everest is to climbers,'' said Martino, who has always been an avid swimmer and even competed in his youth in water polo.

In recent years, Martino swam the Hudson River, not far from his family's U.S. home in Basking Ridge, N.J., and earlier this year he swam with two friends in a 24-mile marathon charity relay race in the warm waters off Tampa, Fla.

But swimming the more than 21 cold-water miles from Dover, England, to Calais, France - even as a part of a one-hour-in, one-hour-out relay with his Italian swimming buddy, Michele Drocco - will present a greater challenge.

"The distance doesn't really concern me. It's the weather conditions that I am concerned about. As the date comes closer, I am less and less sure. But we will try," said Martino, who has set no particular fund-raising goal, mostly contacting friends for donations. "I don't want to put people under pressure. I want people to feel that they have the opportunity to give, but not an obligation."

After Richard passed away, his brother, Carlo, who will be a senior this fall at Harvard, suggested that the family work with TGen after conducting a nationwide search of research institutes.

The Caretto family's decision to help TGen was cemented by a 2009 New Year's Eve visit and tour of TGen headquarters, hosted by Dr. David Craig, Associate Director of TGen's Neurogenomics Division. This research division studies the genetic basis of brain disorders, including Alzheimer's, autism, bipolar and others, to find new and better ways to treat patients.

"They were very enthusiastic. The emotions were strong. They were really positive,'' said Dr. Craig, who would like TGen's bipolar disorder research to better enable clinicians to get beyond trial-and-error efforts. Instead, understanding the genetic basis of the disorder could provide more exacting diagnosis and treatment. "If we get there, that would absolutely be a win."

Because Martino's father was manic-depressive and a cousin was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Martino believes there may be a hereditary DNA link.

With Dr. Craig and others at TGen, Martino said he believed he found scientists who are truly dedicated to improving patients' lives.

"I am not a scientist. I don't profess to understand it all," Martino said. "But I had a very good impression from the people I met. I saw them as very committed and genuinely interested in improving the lives of other people. I really liked the people I met."

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About TGen
The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. Research at TGen is focused on helping patients with diseases such as cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes. TGen is on the cutting edge of translational research where investigators are able to unravel the genetic components of common and complex diseases. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities, TGen believes it can make a substantial contribution to the efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. TGen is affiliated with the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For more information, visit: www.tgen.org.

Press Contact:
Steve Yozwiak
TGen Senior Science Writer
602-343-8704
[email protected]

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