Tucson, Ariz., Dec. 12, 2013 — The Muscular Dystrophy Association today announced it has awarded a second grant under the auspices of its Bridge-to-Industry (B2I) program. B2I is designed to train promising researchers in translational research by providing experience in both academia and the biopharmaceutical industry. Translational research refers to the process of "translating" laboratory findings into treatments for diseases.
"The Bridge to Industry is a unique opportunity for young researchers to learn the language of both academia and industry," said Jane Larkindale, MDA’s vice president of research.
The new grant is for Christopher Penton, who recently completed his doctorate in integrated biomedical sciences at Ohio State University in Columbus and will now relocate to Arizona.
The three-year, $180,000 award will support Penton's research to discover small molecule and protein biologics that addresses muscular dystrophy by shifting the fate of muscle stem cells toward muscle regeneration and away from scar-tissue formation. Most of Penton's work so far has been conducted in mice with a disorder resembling Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), although his findings may have implications for other forms of muscular dystrophy.
B2I grantees receive mentoring from an industry expert and an academic expert in their field. Penton will be mentored by Professor Ronald Allen, an animal scientist and an Associate Dean at the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in Tucson; and Dr. Paul August, Director and Discovery Biology Department Head at the Tucson Arizona Research Center of the global health care leader Sanofi. One of the focuses of Sanofi’s Tucson Research Center is developing innovative models of human disease for drug discovery.
"We hope that at the end of this program Christopher will be prepared to successfully develop drugs in either an academic or an industrial setting," Larkindale said. "Furthermore, if his project is successful, we will have insight into new compounds that may protect muscle in muscular dystrophies and have developed a successful partnership with industry to bring them forward."
To learn more about B2I, see MDA's 'Bridge-to-Industry' Program Awards Second Grant.
DMD is one of nine types of muscular dystrophy, a group of genetic, degenerative diseases primarily affecting voluntary muscles. Caused by mutations in the gene that makes dystrophin (a protein that normally protects muscle cells and keeps them intact), DMD eventually weakens all skeletal muscles (including those used for breathing), and the heart. DMD affects approximately 1 in 3,500 boys with an estimated patient population exceeding 50,000 worldwide.
The Muscular Dystrophy Association is the world’s leading nonprofit health agency dedicated to finding treatments and cures for muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neuromuscular diseases. It does so by funding worldwide research; by providing comprehensive health care services and support to MDA families nationwide; and by rallying communities to fight back through advocacy, fundraising and local engagement. Visit mda.org and follow us at facebook.com/MDAnational and @MDAnews.