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Announcing the Five Emerging Investigator Awards SMA Research Grantees

April 06, 2013 by Bill Strong

We are thrilled to announce the five -- YES, FIVE! -- incredible SMA research programs that were selected for the 2013 $250,000 "FightSMA and Gwendolyn Strong Foundation Emerging Investigator Awards" (EIA). Each of these researchers will receive an initial $25,000 grant for their impactful research program. And it doesn't end there! All five programs will submit their research progress in Summer 2013 and two of the five programs will be awarded an additional $62,500 in November 2013 to fund a year of their research!

When we launched the EIA program with FightSMA in 2013 our goal was to build on the legacy of the last 20+ years in SMA research by directly investing in emerging talent to ensure that today's incredible momentum continues in the SMA research community. We were blown away by the quantity, quality, and breadth of proposals received from nearly every major SMA research institution in the United States and several from overseas. There may be a perception that there is currently a void in the community for the next generation of researchers but the enthusiastic response to our EIA SMA research grant program proves that there is a vibrant list of brilliant emerging talent challenging in nearly every aspect of SMA research, turning theories on their head, and boldly paving the way for fresh approaches. This is exactly why we created the EIA program with FightSMA. And we couldn't be more proud of the first five $25,000 grantees and even more excited to watch their research take shape over the coming months and years.

Click HERE to read the press release!

Following are the five "FightSMA and Gwendolyn Strong Foundation Emerging Investigator Awards" $25,000 grant recipients:

Dr. Lyndsay Murray >> Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

Program title >> Development of Rho-Kinase inhibitors as a therapeutic for SMA

Program summary >> Dr. Murray's research focuses on understanding the basic biology of spinal muscular atrophy and in the development of Smn independent therapeutics. This project specifically looks at how modulation of the pathways which control actin dynamics can influence disease progression in mouse models of SMA.

Dr. Constantin d'Ydewalle >> Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Program title >> Long non-coding RNAs as new therapeutic targets for spinal muscular atrophy

Program summary >> Dr. d'Ydewalle is investigating how long non-protein-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) control SMN expression. To this end, he is using patient-derived cell lines as well as the SMA mouse model. He hypothesizes that interfering with the expression of lncRNAs increases SMN expression. Eventually, he believes that lncRNAs represent an innovative and promising therapeutic target for SMA.

Dr. Steven Crone >> Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Program title >> A circuit mechanism of degeneration in mouse models of SMA

Program summary >> The goal of Dr. Crone's research is to understand how the spinal circuitry that controls motor neurons is disrupted in SMA and to determine how disrupted motor circuitry contributes to pathology of SMA.

Dr. Hansjorg Rindt >> University of Missouri

Program title >> Astrocytes as novel determinant of disease progression in spinal muscular atrophy

Program summary >> Astrocytes are cells in the central nervous system that supply neurons with growth factors and energy. In SMA, this function of astrocytes is disrupted, and this may affect the activity and survival of motor neurons in the spinal cord. Dr. Rindt's research is aimed at restoring proper astrocyte activity which in turn will have a positive effect on the function of motor neurons.

Dr. Kevin Foust >> Ohio State University

Program title >> Investigating Enteric Nervous System Function in Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Program summary >> Dr. Foust is investigating the gastrointestinal function in two new models of SMA. He wants to understand the role of SMN within the neurons that control GI motility.

Congratulations to all five $25,000 Emerging Investigator Awards program grantees and thank you to all of the very worthy researchers who submitted proposals!

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