On May 3, 2009, molecular biologist Louis Kunkel at Children's Hospital in Boston and Harvard University, and biophysicist Kevin Campbell at the University of Iowa, received the prestigious March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology. The prize includes a $250,000 cash award.
Kunkel was on the MDA-supported research team that originally identified the gene for dystrophin, the protein missing in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) in 1986. Since then, his laboratory has been studying muscle stem cells and has been using dystrophin-deficient zebrafish to screen for small molecules that potentially can be developed into therapeutic agents. Much of this work has had MDA support. Kunkel now chairs MDA's Scientific Advisory Committee, which recommends new projects for MDA funding.
Kevin Campbell headed teams that identified several of the proteins that interact with dystrophin in the muscle-fiber membrane. This research, much of which was MDA-supported, shed light on the functions and structure of dystrophin and the membrane itself and also clarified the role that other membrane-associated proteins play in causing limb-girdle muscular dystrophies (LGMD) and congenital muscular dystrophies (CMD).
More recently, his laboratory has focused on the dystroglycan protein and its role in CMD, the role of sarcoglycan protein deficiency in skeletal and cardiac muscle abnormalities, and development of gene transfer for LGMD. Much of this work has been MDA-supported. Campbell also serves on MDA's Scientific Advisory Committee.