With donation, rare disease center to offer 2 new FA grant programs

Oxford-Harrington programs aim to advance new treatments for FA

Marisa Wexler, MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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Thanks to a philanthropic donation of up to £650,000 (about $825,000), the Oxford-Harrington Rare Disease Centre (OHC) is offering two new grant programs to support the development of treatments for Friedreich’s ataxia (FA).

The new awards, dubbed The FA Alliance Catalyst Fund and The FA Alliance Innovation Fund, will help initiate and accelerate a pipeline of FA projects that are underway at OHC, according to a press release from the center, which is a joint venture between the University of Oxford, in the U.K., and the Harrington Discovery Institute at University Hospitals, in Ohio, in the U.S.

The announcement of the grant programs “validates and underscores OHC’s commitment to driving innovation and collaboration in research towards new therapeutics to meet the major unmet need of Friedreich’s ataxia,” said Matthew Wood, director and chief scientific officer of the OHC.

“We are extremely grateful for the support received, which is enabling the launch of these two new award programs,” added Wood, also a professor of neuroscience in the department of pediatrics at Oxford.

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New grant programs will support research underway at OHC

The release stated that the goal of the new grant programs is to advance “cutting-edge research currently underway within the OHC.”

FA is a neuromuscular disorder caused by mutations in the FXN gene, resulting in dysfunction of mitochondria — cellular structures that help provide energy for the cell — and ultimately resulting in symptoms such as difficulty with coordination. While the first specific treatment for FA was approved last year, the disease remains without a cure.

To help advance the development of new therapies for FA, the OHC has convened a Friedreich’s Ataxia Alliance, comprised of more than a dozen experts who are advancing projects that aim to improve life for people with the inherited condition. Specific projects vary from experiments aiming to better understand the underlying biological mechanisms, to the development of experimental treatments, and exploring how to use modern technology like smartphones to best support people with FA in clinical care and research.

This new funding will both accelerate existing projects and advance new projects with the aim of developing a therapeutic to cure or treat FA.

“Through OHC and the FA Alliance, we are bringing a multidisciplinary team of leading researchers and clinicians together to tackle this challenging rare disease as one of our priority areas,” Wood said.

“Strengthened by the complementary expertise of the Harrington Discovery Institute, this new funding will both accelerate existing projects and advance new projects with the aim of developing a therapeutic to cure or treat FA,” Wood added.