The Gracias Family Foundation has committed $3 million to new early-stage nanomedicine research led by the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering aimed at reducing atherosclerosis, the inflammation of the arteries that can lead to heart attack, at the cellular level.

“The Gracias Family Foundation and Antonio Gracias have shown tremendous leadership on this critically important health issue that affects all Americans,” Paul Alivisatos, president of the University of Chicago, said. “The investment by the Gracias Foundation will support the research and teaching activity of UChicago faculty who are driving toward a cure.”

The leading cause of death in the United States across gender, racial and ethnic groups, heart disease is now attributed to 1 in every 5 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Like many Americans, my family also has been touched by heart disease,” Antonio Gracias, JD’98, of Valor Equity Partners and Trustee of the University of Chicago said. “The Gracias Family Foundation is happy to invest in early-stage science that seeks a cure for the number one killer of Americans. I am pleased to be able to help the University of Chicago, my alma mater, work toward solving some of society’s biggest challenges.”

The research on heart disease, a collaboration between Matthew Tirrell, professor and dean of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, and Yun Fang,  associate professor of medicine in the Biological Sciences Division, could ultimately lead to better treatments for humans who suffer from complications of vascular disease. Vascular diseases such as atherosclerosis can lead to serious complications, like heart attack or stroke. But many treatments for these diseases target systemic risk factors, such as reducing blood pressure and cholesterol, rather than addressing the damaged blood vessels themselves.