FightSMA and GSF Announce Winners of 2016 Emerging Investigator Awards


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SMA researchers awarded grants

FightSMA and The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation (GSF), two organizations dedicated to ending spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), have announced three winners of their 2016 Emerging Investigator Awards (EIA).

The winners of the EIA competition were announced at 2016 Emerging Investigator Awardsthe Annual FightSMA Research Conference April 7-9 in Alexandria, Virginia. The researchers each received a $27,500 grant and are now eligible to compete later for a $62,500 final award.

The EIA awards were created in 2013 by the two SMA-dedicated organizations to attract outstanding, young scholars into SMA research, according to FightSMA Chair Joe Slay. Since its inception, the EIA program has awarded more than $650,000 for SMA research.

This year, the winners ranged from Ph.D. graduates who are engaged in post-doctoral studies to assistant professors who are up to four years into their appointment.

Here are the 2016 EIA winners:

  • Sara Gombash Lampe, from The Ohio State University; Gombash is a post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Kevin Foust’s laboratory who has also received a FightSMA/GSF funding aid. The study, “SMN Deficient Enteric Submucosal Neurons and Gastrointestinal Function in SMA,” will look at the role of SMN in patients’ intestines to analyze how SMN deficiency has an impact on the digestion and absorption of nutrients.
  • Anne Rietz, from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Rietz is a post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Elliot Androphy’s laboratory. The study “Investigation of potential post-translational modifications of SMN by a novel small molecule” will examine how a novel small molecule (or novel drug) might lead to increased SMN levels, since understanding the mechanism of SMN induction could potentially help SMA drugs become more effective.
  • Sarah Tisdale, from Columbia University; Tisdale is a post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Livio Pellizzoni’s lab, and the lab’s second investigator to receive an EIA Award. Her study, “Role of SMN in cytoplasmic mRNA regulation,” will investigate the role of SMN in the regulation of cytoplasmic mRNA turnover and identify specific mRNAs that SMN deficiency dysregulates, to understand how these targets might contribute toward SMA pathogenesis.

“This program is a great example of how two nonprofit organizations can build smart partnerships to advance rare disease research,” GSF co-founder Bill Strong said in a press release. “We’re putting research funds directly in the hands of SMA’s brightest stars, and over the past four years this unique model has proven effective at supporting fresh ideas and moving SMA research forward.”

Photo Credits: FightSMA