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by Janice Hill
Tiny Helen Tully inspires a global partnership that spans 5,000 miles and the 3 billion base pairs of the human genome.
On first glance, a technology company with 70 employees in Riga, Latvia, may appear to have little in common with a pediatric research hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. But closer examination reveals several similarities between MikroTik® and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Both are at the forefront of their fields, share a passion for innovation and use communications technology to bring progress to far parts of the world.
But their strongest bond is a charming 3-year-old girl named Helen, who adores her puppy, named Cookie, and loves to get her nails painted her favorite color—pink.
Helen came to St. Jude three years ago with rhabdomyosarcoma, an aggressive cancer of the soft tissue. Her treatment has included chemotherapy, brachyradiotherapy, surgery and most recently a stem cell transplant, completed in December of 2010. Helen is the daughter of Andra and John Tully Jr.
John co-founded MikroTik with his partner and co-owner Arnis Riekstins. The Latvian company provides wireless ISP systems for Internet connectivity in many countries around the world. Now, MikroTik is partnering with St. Jude to help uncover the mysteries of how childhood cancers begin and grow in children like Helen. The company has provided $1.5 million in sponsorship support of the hospital’s cancer research and the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital – Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project.
“We are honored to have this incredibly special company embrace the St. Jude mission,” says Richard C. Shadyac Jr., CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising organization for St. Jude. “Their partnership is particularly significant because of their personal connection to the mission and speaks to the urgency of research into the genetic causes of childhood cancer.”
The most ambitious initiative of its kind, the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project will sequence the normal and cancer genomes of more than 600 childhood cancer patients during a three-year span. The project will allow scientists to identify the genetic mutations that lead to childhood cancer and will provide a foundation for discovery for diagnostic and treatment advancements.
“It’s a privilege and honor to partner with St. Jude on this important effort,” Riekstins says. “We see firsthand how St. Jude has tailored a cutting-edge protocol for Helen and how the staff provides incredible patient care that includes the entire family. This dedication to quality matches the values of our company and confirms the importance of our commitment.”
Despite her treatment, Helen remains buoyant, bantering with her nurses at the hospital. Her father is a native Memphian, and Helen loves being with her grandmother, who lives near the hospital.
This little girl, who links her father’s technology company on the Daugava River with St. Jude on the Mississippi River, has a unique quality for bringing people together. Affectionate and fun loving, she simply smiles and says, “Come here—Let me give you a hug.”
Promise Spring 2011