2004 US Transplant Games, to be held in Minneapolis, celebrates 50th Anniversary of Transplantation

New York, NY
March 20, 2003

The National Kidney Foundation today invited transplant recipients, donor families, medical professionals and the public to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Transplantation at the 2004 US Transplant Games to be held July 27 to August 1 in Twin Cities.

The Games, to be presented by the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), are the largest sports event in the world for people with life-saving organ transplants. An Olympic-style event for transplant recipients, the U.S. Transplant Games celebrate the second chance at life for thousands of athletes.

In announcing the site of the Games, John Davis, CEO, said, "The US Transplant Games is going back to its roots. We began at a major university in the midwest and the Twin Cities will bring us back. 2004 is also the perfect time for the entire transplant community to come together to celebrate 50 years of saving lives through transplantation."

The US Transplant Games have grown from 1,000 people in Indianapolis in 1990 to over 8,000 in 2002 in Orlando. The Games are an Olympic style sports competition for recipients of life saving organ transplants. The five day event also features recognition and educational experiences for recipients' families, families who have donated loved ones' organs, living donors and medical experts.

In 1954 in Boston, Drs. John Merrill and Joseph Murray headed a team that performed the first successful kidney transplant. It was a living donor transplant from an identical twin. Dr. Murray received the 1990 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his pioneering work in organ transplantation. In recognition of Dr. Murray's contributions and the 50th anniversary of the first successful kidney transplant, Dr. Murray has been named the Honorary Chairman of the 2004 US Transplant Games. Dr. Murray, now 84 years of age, has responded, "I look forward to attending this wonderful celebration as I have been a supporter of the Transplant Games for many years."

"The National Kidney Foundation organizes the US Transplant Games to demonstrate to the public that transplantation works and to illustrate the tremendous need for more organ donors. Transplant athletes compete as if they've never been sick a day in their lives. In fact, many have been very sick and would have died without an organ donor," says Davis.

Davis added, "The University of Minnesota is a major transplant center with excellent athletic facilities and accommodations for athletes and donor families. The business and cultural communities in the Twin Cities have been very responsive to our plans to bring this major event to their area.

Trent Tipple, a kidney recipient since January 1995 who chair's the foundation's TransAction Council says, "We are thrilled with the decision to come to Minneapolis. Those of us who have received a transplant really look forward to the opportunity to interact with other recipients and showcase the quality of life that can be achieved after transplant. The Games are the only time we get to be part of the larger universe of transplant recipients. Meeting donor families and sharing the Games experience with them is an inspiration."

"We're happy to celebrate fifty years, but we're still trying to encourage more organ donation. Maybe coverage of our success will help others see the benefits of organ donation and help change the fact that so many don't survive the wait," Tipple added.

David McLean of Minneapolis, the lead organizer of the bid to host the Games, said, "We welcome the NKF and the US Transplant Games to our great city. There is no better place to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Transplantation than here in the Twin Cities. The University of Minnesota is a leading center of transplantation and offers just the right mix of campus atmosphere within a transportation, cultural and business hub."

Davis said, "We look forward to working with our local Affiliate, the National Kidney Foundation of Minnesota, the medical community, business leaders and transplant recipients from the area in hosting the best Games ever.

"Also, we encourage the entire US Transplant Community to come to the Games and make it a real celebration of fifty years of achievement and a recognition of the challenge we share to increase organ donation and provide this gift of life to every American in need."

Says Jim Harold, Vice President, Transplant Business Unit at Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, the Games' founding sponsor, "The U.S. Transplant Games truly showcase the success of transplantation therapy, while promoting the health and fitness of the transplant athletes." The Games also call attention to the dramatic national organ shortage. More than 80,000 Americans are currently on the national transplant waiting list for every type of life-saving organ transplant and 17 people die each day while waiting.

The National Kidney Foundation is dedicated to preventing kidney and urinary tract diseases, improving the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by these diseases, and increasing the availability of all organs for transplantation. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation is focused on enhancing the quality of life for transplant recipients through the development and introduction of novel drugs and technologies.

To receive updates on the planning of the U.S. Transplant Games, "The National Celebration of 50 years of Transplantation", send an email to: transplant@kidney.org or for more information call the Foundation at (800) 622-9010.