TUCSON, Ariz. (April 15, 2010) — Forty-two medical researchers and their labs in the U.S., Australia and Canada have been awarded more than $21 million (A$22,659,000) in grants by the Muscular Dystrophy Association to advance critical neuromuscular research in 2010. Many of the grants are multiyear awards to be dispersed over the next three years.
One of the grant recipients is Garth Nicholson, Ph.D., professor of molecular biology and neurogenetics at the University of Sydney; and director of the Northcott Neuroscience Laboratory at the Anzac Health and Medical Research Institute in Concord, NSW, Australia. Nicholson has been awarded $172,986 (A$186,651) to continue his work in identifying new genes for the X chromosome forms of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease or CMTX3. It is a neuromuscular disease that causes weaknesses and atrophy in hand and lower leg muscles. Including this grant, MDA has awarded Nicholson $902,317 (A$973,600) in scientific grant money since 1988.
The grant is part of MDA’s ongoing commitment to funding neuromuscular research that may eventually lead to treatments and cures for muscular dystrophy and related diseases.
“All of these grants were recommended for funding by the distinguished groups of neuromuscular disease researchers and clinicians voluntarily serving on the MDA Medical and Scientific Advisory Committees,” explains R. Rodney Howell, M.D., Chairman of the MDA Board of Directors. “Dr. Nicholson is an outstanding scientist, and Garth’s contributions to the field of neuromuscular disease research continue to be impressive.”
Nicholson’s research focuses on the X chromosome with the expectation that his team will be able to create a system to identify genetic mutations that cause CMTX3.
“Funding such as this is very important to find the causes and ultimately a treatment of the various forms of CMT,” said Nicholson. “CMT produces disability which is lifelong. MDA recognizes the importance of funding research on diseases causing long-term disability such as CMT. Without this funding it would be difficult for researchers to continue to work on these disorders which have equal economic costs and suffering to the better-funded fatal disorders, such as vascular disease and cancer.”
All research grant applications go through a rigorous peer review process by MDA’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Committees, composed of world-renowned experts in neuromuscular diseases. Reviewers assess the protocols and methods used by the applying scientists, as well as the relevance of the applicant’s research to therapy development for the more than 40 neuromuscular diseases that MDA covers. Each year, about 500 researchers apply to MDA for research funding. MDA annually invests more than $40 million on international research projects.
Founded in 1950, the Muscular Dystrophy Association is the nation’s largest non-governmental funder of research seeking treatments and cures for more than 40 neuromuscular diseases, including muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) and Friedreich’s ataxia (FA). The first nonprofit organization to be recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Medical Association (“for significant and lasting contributions to the health and welfare of humanity”), MDA also provides unparalleled health care services through its network of more than 200 hospital-affiliated clinics; advocates for the families it serves; and invests significant resources educating the medical and scientific communities, as well as the general public, about neuromuscular diseases affecting more than 1 million Americans. Thanks to decades of generous contributions from caring individuals, plus outstanding support received from local, regional and national sponsors, MDA is credited for its role in building the entire field of neuromuscular disease research, while simultaneously nurturing clinical care to significantly improve both quality and length of lives for those affected by neuromuscular diseases.