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An organization, a volunteer, and a community come together to support the Packard Center

ALS advocate Michelle Farr hones in on collaboration to find a cure
Posted October 28, 2013
ALS Advocate Michelle Farr ALS Advocate Michelle Farr

Michelle Farr knows first-hand that collaborative efforts lead to significant results. After 25 years of service in a number of government agencies, she is now CEO of a consulting company, Zofia Consulting, LLC,that brings together the expertise of a wide variety of disciplines in intelligence and security, and she also serves on the executive committee of the Innovative Solutions Consortium (ISC), a forum that promotes collaboration among industry leaders in the government. In her spare time, Farr is avidly involved in one of Johns Hopkins’ major hubs of collaborative science: the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins

As an ally for those affected by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, she found that the Packard Center was a perfect fit for her interests and her skill set. “The strong desire to break the status quo and work together in a way that finally leads to meaningful contributions to science…is completely in sync with the work I have done in my own national security community, in the ISC, and now in my ALS advocacy,” Farr states.

Through connecting her professional and personal passions, Farr was able to facilitate another powerful collaboration: on November 5, the Packard Center will be a beneficiary of the ISC’s second annual reception and concert. The ISC, which has strong roots in the national security and defense communities, created the event to honor our nation’s troops and to provide support for veteran’s causes. With veterans twice as likely to be affected by ALS, Farr recognized the Packard Center as a meaningful partner for the ISC. The event, which also benefits the Semper Fi Fund, will be emceed by Suzanne Malveaux, an Emmy award winning anchor at CNN whose mother is afflicted with ALS. “This is an opportunity for all of us who share common concerns to come together to raise money for things we care about,” Farr says. (Concert and ticket information for the event is on the State Theatre website.) 

Farr became a supporter of ALS research in 2006 when she first made the connection that her family may have unknowingly been affected by a rare form of the disease for many years.  Through the extensive genealogical research that followed, she was able to trace the condition back through 13 generations.  After getting involved with the Packard Center, she uncovered another surprising connection: in a seminal article published in 1880, and still studied by medical students, famed Hopkins physician William Osler had first detailed the struggles of Farr’s family and what was then known as progressive muscular atrophy. 

Now, Farr is determined to bring this connection full circle. “The answers to hard problems in all areas lie in our collective genius – we just need to organize correctly to get to those solutions,” Farr says. Through her efforts to connect the ISC and the Packard Center, Farr is personally demonstrating just how effective this type of collaboration can be.