MDA Launches 'Bridge-to-Industry' Training Program

MDA launched its innovative Bridge-to-Industry (B2I) program with a $180,000 grant over three years to postdoctoral fellow Archi Joardar at The University of Arizona in Tucson, to develop two promising drug candidates for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

MDA’s Bridge-to-Industry, or B2I, is a pilot project that trains promising researchers in translational research by providing experience both in academia and the biopharmaceutical industry.    

Translational research refers to the “translation” of promising laboratory findings into marketable drugs, a lengthy, rigorous and complex process that usually involves collaboration between academic researchers and industry experts in drug development.

"B2I is the first program of its kind," said Jane Larkindale, director of MDA's translational research program, which oversees the B2I program. "MDA is pleased to take a lead role in accelerating the drug development process for neuromuscular diseases through innovative programs like B2I."   

Training tomorrow's neuromuscular disease researchers

Interest in the discovery and development of drugs for neuromuscular diseases has never been greater. Through B2I, MDA is training a new cadre of researchers who can skillfully navigate this complicated process.

Like MDA's development and clinical research training grants, B2I grants fund more than just research, encouraging talented researchers to join the ranks of those dedicated to defeating neuromuscular diseases.

"MDA has a distinguished track record in training basic and clinical researchers in neuromuscular disease," said Sanjay Bidichandani, MDA's vice president of research. "The B2I program will now fill another crucial gap: the growing need for highly qualified translational researchers who have expertise in modern drug research and development."

Speeding drug development via academia-industry partnership

Through the B2I program, MDA is able to fund investigators to conduct drug development research under the guidance of two mentors: one experienced in academic research and the other in the industrial side of drug development.

Daniela Zarnescu, associate professor in neuroscience and molecular & cellular biology at the College of Science, University of Arizona (UA), will provide academic mentoring to Joardar. Zarnescu currently has an active MDA research grant for her work on gene and drug discovery research in a fruit fly model that carries a mutation in the ALS-associated TDP43 gene.

Joardar will receive mentoring on the industry side from Chris Hulme, co-director of the BIO5 Institute in Oro Valley, Ariz. Hulme is an expert in small-molecule drug design and the development of chemical-based methods to hasten the drug discovery process.

Mentorship under Zarnescu and Hulme will provide Joardar with a unique environment in which to train while furthering the development of two promising ALS drug candidates identified in Zarnescu's work. Joardar will evaluate the ability of each drug to reduce neurotoxicity caused by ALS-associated mutations in the TDP43 gene.

Find out more about MDA-funded research projects

For information on recent MDA grants, including research, development and clinical research training grants, visit Grants at a Glance, a special feature with photos and information on the new MDA grantees and their research.

For information on the approximately 300 active research grants currently supported by MDA, view this PDF.

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