NIH Director to Speak at Smashing Walnuts Gala

Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, will be a featured speaker at the third annual Cracking the Cure Gala on Saturday, March 19. Dr. Collins leads NIH, the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world, spanning the spectrum from basic to clinical research.

Collins was present when The Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, a $126 million federal appropriation given to childhood disease research, was signed into law in 2014. NIH and the National Cancer Institute will be participants in the Cancer Initiative that President Obama announced during his State of the Union Address.

Smashing Walnuts         “Smashing Walnuts is focused on funding childhood brain cancer research and clinical trials,” Ellyn Miller, Smashing Walnuts founder, said. “Having the nation’s leading authority on medical research believe in our work is incredibly exciting.”

Collins is a physician-geneticist noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the international Human Genome Project. He is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007, received the National Medal of Science in 2009 and is a bestselling author.

“Because of NIH-funded research and contributions made by advocacy groups like the Smashing Walnuts Foundation, we are faced with exceptional scientific opportunities to advance treatments for childhood brain cancer,” Collins said in a statement. “In addition to the research that NIH already supports in this area, the Vice President’s National Cancer Moonshot proposes additional resources to develop new treatments specifically aimed at childhood cancers.”

“Shamrock Smash” is the theme of this year’s Cracking the Cure Gala, to be held at the Ritz Carlton Tysons Corner. The event features dinner, a silent and live auction fundraiser and dancing. Last year’s event drew more than 500 guests. Tickets for the gala are available at

Smashing Walnuts was founded by the family of Gabriella Miller who raised nearly $300,000 for children’s cancer charities, including funding for the Make a Wish Foundation to grant wishes to 36 children and co-authored a book about childhood cancer before her death in 2013. Gabriella and her family smashed walnuts with a frying pan to symbolize the fight against her “walnut sized” brain tumor.

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