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Gala puts the spotlight on creating family and support for those living with hepatitis B

The Hepatitis B Foundation Annual Gala honored two global leaders in the fight to advance hepatitis B science, prevention and treatment.

Doylestown, Pa., March 31, 2023—The Hepatitis B Foundation held its annual Gala, a fundraiser that celebrates the nonprofit’s people and achievements, on March 10 at The Warrington, a popular venue in Warrington, Pa.

Gilead Sciences Inc. was the premier sponsor of this well-attended event, which attracted more than 250 local community and business leaders along with scientists and public health experts from around the country.

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Stephen Urban, PhD, recipient of the Blumberg Prize and Timothy M. Block, PhD, Foundation co-founder and board chair

Among the evening’s highlights were as award presentation to the Foundation’s two distinguished honorees for 2023. Stephan Urban, PhD, was awarded the Baruch S. Blumberg Prize for his contributions to the field of hepatitis B and hepatitis D research and Su Wang, MD, MPH, FACP, received the Community Commitment Award for her outspoken advocacy and dedication to the hepatitis B community. Both honorees were surprised with video montages of their colleagues delivering messages of congratulations and heartfelt thanks.

Dr. Urban is a distinguished professor and globally recognized virologist at Heidelberg University Hospital in Germany. His research led to the creation of bulevirtide, the first and only drug approved to treat hepatitis D, which is a serious coinfection that occurs only in people living with hepatitis B. Prior to the Gala, Dr. Urban presented a seminar that morning about his research at the Hepatitis B Foundation in Doylestown. You can view the presentation here. Dr. Wang is a practicing physician, extremely prominent global advocate and person living with hepatitis B. She is medical director of Viral Hepatitis Programs and the Center for Asian Health at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J. She is immediate past president of the World Hepatitis Alliance, a patient-led international organization whose mission is to harness the power of people living with viral hepatitis to achieve its elimination. Dr. Wang also has served on countless committees and boards in an effort to bring the lived experience of those with hepatitis B to the forefront.

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Chari A. Cohen, DrPH, MPH, president of the Foundation and Su Wang, MD, MPH, FACP, recipient of the Community Commitment Award.

Dr. Wang delivered a powerful acceptance speech where she highlighted the work of the Foundation and the need to get those with lived experience in front of decision makers.

“I’ve come to think of all of us who work in hepatitis as a kind of family,” Dr. Wang said. “Maybe because hep B is so neglected that we bond as fight this battle together. We feed off of each other’s passion and grit. And I’m very grateful for the Hepatitis B Foundation for creating a place where people living with hep B are seen, for showing us that we can prevent liver cancer and early death, that we can live long and healthy lives. Thank you for bringing into the light what has been in the darkness for too long, for speaking out on behalf of us, for fighting for our rights, for fighting for a cure, and for never giving up. Thank you for creating a home for us. A home for me. And my one wish for everyone living with hepatitis B to see that they are part of this family.”

Foundation President Chari A. Cohen, DrPH, MPH, said: “We were thrilled to have so many of our loyal supporters and staff come together to honor the great people who have made major contributions to the fight against hepatitis B and hepatitis D. We owe a huge thank you to everyone who came, participated in the silent auction, donated and shared well-wishes with our distinguished guests.”

Three of our region’s most-respected elected officials, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, Sen. Steve Santarsiero and Bucks County Commission Chair Bob Harvie were invited to speak. They spoke admiringly about the Hepatitis B Foundation and its mission, plus its sister organizations, the Blumberg Institute and Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center. Sen. Santarsiero surprised Chari A. Cohen, PhD, MPH, with a Pennsylvania Senate plaque recognizing her elevation to president of the Hepatitis B Foundation.  

Generous donors and sponsors of the Foundation gave a total of almost $180,000. The guests enjoyed a great variety of casino games and a robust silent action. The latter was a huge success with items and services from donors such as The Philadelphia Eagles, Leading Edge Aviation and Kona Coffee. Rep. Fitzpatrick provided a Day at the U.S. Capital including White House tour and others donated a collection of fine wine, vacation homes for a weekend and a wide variety of other treasures.

About hepatitis B: The world’s most common serious liver infection, chronic hepatitis B is caused by a virus that attacks and injures the liver. Each year up to 1 million people die from hepatitis B worldwide, even though it is preventable and treatable. Hepatitis B is a “silent epidemic” because most people do not have symptoms when they are newly or chronically infected. Thus, they can unknowingly infect others and continue the spread of hepatitis B. For people who are chronically infected but don’t have any symptoms, their livers are still being silently damaged, which can develop into serious liver disease such as cirrhosis or liver cancer.

About the Hepatitis B Foundation: As the nation’s leading hepatitis B advocacy and research organization, the Hepatitis B Foundation is one of the most active proponents of improving hepatitis B screening, prevention and treatment of the disease. We are the nation’s leading nonprofit organization solely dedicated to finding a cure for hepatitis B and improving the quality of life for those affected worldwide through research, education and patient advocacy. Founded in 1991, the Hepatitis B Foundation is based in Doylestown, Pa., with offices in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. To learn more, go to www.hepb.org, read our blog at hepb.org/blog, follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (@hepbfoundation) or call us at 215-489-4900. To support these lifesaving efforts, please go to our Donate webpage, email giving@hepb.org, or call 215-489-4900 and ask for Institutional Advancement.