TUCSON, Ariz. (April 15, 2010) — Forty-two medical researchers and their labs have been awarded more than $21 million 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 Thomas Cooper, M.D., the S. Donald Greenberg Professor of Pathology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Cooper has been awarded $346,661 to continue his innovative work in a form of muscular dystrophy known as myotonic dystrophy. Including this grant, MDA has awarded Cooper just over $2,000,000 in scientific grant money since 1988.
The grant is part of MDA’s ongoing commitment to fund 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. Cooper is an outstanding scientist, and Tom’s contributions to the field of neuromuscular disease research continue to be impressive.”
Cooper and his colleagues are developing compounds that target and destroy toxic genetic instructions that lead to myotonic dystrophy. It’s a genetic disease that causes muscle weakness throughout the body and also can affect the heart, vision and breathing.
“This research will enable us to directly test a new therapeutic approach,” Cooper explained. “This work could not go forward without the support of MDA. In fact, MDA was instrumental in supporting the early work from my lab and others leading to the discoveries that made this new therapeutic approach possible. The support of MDA has allowed us to maintain the momentum that is critical to understand the molecular causes of disease to the level required to develop potent therapies.”
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 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.
In Houston, MDA maintains three clinics to help area families. The MDA Neuromuscular Center at Methodist Neurological Institute is co-directed by Drs. Stanley H. Appel and Ericka P. Simpson. Dr. Appel also directs the MDA/ALS clinic at that location. Timothy Lotze, M.D., directs the MDA Children’s Clinic at Texas Children’s Hospital.