Cure SMA Awarded $2,500 Grant from Newfield Foundation

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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Cure SMAThe oil and gas company Newfield Exploration awarded a $2,500 grant to nonprofit organization Cure SMA. The funding will be invested in Cure SMA’s main mission of supporting both patients and families who suffer the burden of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) as well as research projects working to find effective treatments and ultimately a cure for the disease.

The grant was awarded through the Newfield Foundation, an organization formed by Woodlands, Texas-based Newfield Exploration in 2001, with the purpose of improving the quality of life in communities by making key donations. The organizations that are awarded funding are chosen by a committee of employees, and can range from community services, environmental foundations, health or welfare, and cultural arts.

This time, the committee chose Cure SMA, which was officially awarded at a ceremony in February during which the president of the Cure SMA Rocky Mountain Chapter, Marynell Larson, and a board member of the Rocky Mountain Chapter, Michelle Pritekel were present to accept the grant, according to a press release from the organization.

“I was so excited to hear that the Newfield Foundation selected Cure SMA to receive a grant,” stated Pritekel, who is both a Rocky Mountain Chapter board member and a Newfield employee. “Cure SMA became very near and dear to my heart when my son was diagnosed in March of 2014 with SMA type III at the age of two. Cure SMA and its community has provided invaluable support and hope for my son’s future.”

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Cure SMA has been working since 1984 to help families suffering from the difficulties of having a child with SMA, but under the name of “Families of SMA.” However, last October the organization announced that it was rebranding itself under a new name and refocusing its mission to find a cure for the disease through support of cutting-edge SMA research. The organization aims to fight the reality of SMA, which is the leading genetic cause of death in children.

Most recently, Cure SMA has undertaken a major financing initiative to support basic research for the disease, totaling $640,000 in funding. Among the awards already awarded is a $140,000 grant for the research project “mTOR and Protein Synthesis in SMA” currently being conducted by Mustafa Sahin, MD, PhD, at Boston Children’s Hospital.

The study focuses on a cellular pathway, called mTOR, that fails to function correctly when the levels of survival motor neuron (SMN) protein are low, which is the case with SMA patients. The insufficiency causes the break of the motor neuron cells’ operation and its eventual death. Sahin expects to both increase understanding on the mechanisms of the disease, as well as to provide insights into new courses of treatment.