MDA Awards $2.6 Million in Grants to Improve Understanding of Neuromuscular Diseases

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by Alice Melão |

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The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) awarded 13 grants totaling $2.6 million to promote and support research projects aimed at better understanding and treating muscular dystrophies and related life-threatening diseases, including Friedreich’s ataxia.

Five of the new grants were awarded to recognized researchers in the neuromuscular field, and five were granted to investigators in early stages of their careers and on the brink of becoming independent researchers.

The remaining three grants will support the development of new tools, techniques, or services to facilitate and expedite therapy development.

Awardees include:

  • David Lynch, MD, PhD, professor of neurology at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, awarded an MDA research grant totaling $300,000 for three years. He will work on improving the understanding of mitochondria dysfunction and nerve-cell impairment in Friedreich’s ataxia.
  • Daniel MacArthur, PhD, co-director of medical and population genetics at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, awarded an MDA research infrastructure grant totaling $110,000. He proposed the creation of a neuromuscular disease-specific platform based on genetic analysis techniques to be included in the Rare Genomes Project, which will help improve diagnosis of these diseases.
  • Dwi Kemaladewi, PhD, a research associate at SickKids Research Institute in Toronto, Canada, awarded an MDA development grant totaling $180,000 for three years. She will explore the potential of LAMA2 gene therapy to correct merosin-deficiency that is characteristic of congenital muscular dystrophy (MDC1A).
  • David Hammers, PhD, a research assistant professor at the University of Florida, awarded an MDA development grant totaling $180,000 over three years. He will conduct experimental and mice studies to improve understanding of the fibrosis process in Duchenne muscular dystrophy-affected muscle.

“MDA is pleased to announce our support of more than a dozen new research projects as part of our efforts to keep up the momentum during this time of unprecedented progress in neuromuscular disease research and care,” Lynn O’Connor Vos, president and CEO of MDA, said in a press release.

“Each and every project we fund has the potential to result in improved understanding of the causes and underlying mechanisms of the neuromuscular diseases under MDA’s umbrella, as well as findings that can inform the development of therapies that will transform lives,” she said.

The MDA has a long history of supporting basic, translational, and clinical research to help expand the knowledge of neuromuscular disease and trigger the development of new safer and effective therapies for this population.

The MDA’s research program leverages projects that provide new insights and information that can result in important breakthroughs for several diseases. The latest awardees were selected and approved by the MDA’s board of directors following a detailed peer-review process conducted by MDA’s Research Advisory Committee and overseen by leading clinicians and scientists.

“MDA continues to fund the top researchers and the most promising science in the neuromuscular disease space,” said Grace Pavlath, PhD, senior vice president and scientific director of MDA. “With these new awards, we’re advancing projects that are shedding light on the causes of disease; putting into place infrastructure and key elements for clinical trial readiness and completion; informing and driving the development of cutting-edge therapies; and fostering collaboration and partnerships between academia, pharma and other key stakeholders in the search for solutions that will change lives.”