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GEN News Highlights : Aug 18, 2010

MDA Provides $14.1M in 34 Grants to Advance Muscle and Nerve Disease Research

Largest award of $525,000 goes to Emory University.

The Muscular Dystrophy Association has award $14.1 million in new grants to 34 research leaders. During its July meeting, the MDA board of directors unanimously approved this funding round, which will be spread across universities in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Israel, The Netherlands, the U.K., and the U.S.

It includes nearly $600,000 in underwriting support for two collaborative research initiatives to speed therapeutic development for Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and Friedreich's ataxia. Ten investigations, representing a $3.4 million investment, will focus on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The research may yield additional insights into treating other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer, Parkinson, and Huntington diseases, spinal muscular atrophy, and fragile X, MDA notes.

More than $6.9 million in funding will advance muscular dystrophy research initiatives, including a $5.3 million infusion primarily for work that could lead to clinical trials in Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies. One such grant is for a two-year project at Children's Hospital Boston that will test 4,000 FDA-approved compounds in zebrafish and mouse models to determine if some approved drugs could be fast-tracked as new treatments for muscular dystrophy.

A University of Western Australia program hopes to translate early successes in using antisense oligomers to spur the flawed gene responsible for both Duchenne and Becker dystrophies to express dystrophin, the protein that is absent or lacking in these diseases. "The same qualities that make dystrophin expression a difficult target for gene therapy make it the best candidate for therapeutic success using genetic band aids," according to Steve Wilton, Ph.D., the University of Western Australia investigator who is working on this therapeutic strategy with MDA funding.

MDA reports that previously this year it invested almost $39 million in worldwide research seeking treatments and cures for muscle diseases. The details for the most recent round of $14.1 million in funding are as follows:

  University of New Mexico: $340,000
  Emory University: $525,000
  Emory University: $359,000
  Johns Hopkins University: $348,000
  Beth Israel Deaconess: $352,000
  UMass Medical School: $330,000
  Children's Hospital: $375,000
  UC Irvine: $372,000
  Stanford University: $200,000
  UC San Diego: $330,000
  UC San Diego 2: $330,000
  Loyola University: $405,000
  University of Missouri: $160,000
  University of Colorado: $303,000
  University of Florida: $179,000
  University of Miami: $364,000
  Methodist Neuro. Institute: $330,000
  University Texas, Houston: $302,000
  Baylor College of Medicine: $411,000
  University of Louisville: $360,000
  St. Jude's Children's Hospital: $180,000
  Columbia University (SY): $180,000
  Columbia University (HO): $375,000
  Columbia University (WH): $311,000
  Thomas Jefferson University: $180,000
  Sfida Biologic, Inc.: $79,000
  University of Washington: $313,000
  University of Arizona: $375,000
  University of Melbourne: $375,000
  Univ. of Western Australia: $368,000
  University of Ottawa: $180,000
  University of Ottawa B: $360,000
  Quebec, Universite Laval: $345,000
  Tel-Aviv University: $360,000