Announcing our 2014 Emerging Investigator Award Finalist Grantee

We are extremely excited to announce our Finalist Grantee for the 2014 “FightSMA/Gwendolyn Strong Foundation Emerging Investigator Awards” program: Dr. Barrington G. Burnett, Assistant Professor, Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Genetics, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. This grant will continue to support Dr. Burnett’s project, titled “Targeting the Ubiquitin Proteasome System to Treat Spinal Muscular Atrophy,” aimed at identifying genes and pathways that accelerate SMN protein breakdown and to selectively inhibit those pathways. Congratulations Dr. Burnett!

Dr. Burnett will receive an additional $62,500 grant from FightSMA/Gwendolyn Strong Foundation to fund a full year of SMA research. He was selected from an impressive group of three Award Grantees who each received $27,500 grants from FightSMA/Gwendolyn Strong Foundation as part of the 2014 Emerging Investigator Awards announced in April 2014.

From Dr. Barrington G. Burnett on this grant:

“We are buoyed by the recent progress we have made in the lab developing new techniques to monitor SMN protein levels. These techniques are currently being developed into high-throughput assays to identify small molecule inhibitors to our target genes. The progress made so far wouldn’t have been possible without the continued support of the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation and FightSMA. With the help of this additional funding we hopefully will identify small molecule agents that inhibit SMN protein breakdown and validate these novel therapeutic options in SMA model animals.”

From Dr. Barrington G. Burnett on his program this grant is supporting:

“There are two main ways to increase SMN protein levels: increase SMN protein production or slow SMN protein breakdown. The goal of our program is to identify genes and pathways that accelerate SMN protein breakdown and selectively inhibit these pathways. By knocking down the expression of each gene in the human genome we have identified and are currently evaluating potential modifiers of SMN protein turnover. Using this approach, we hope to obtain information on the genes and pathways that regulate SMN protein levels and thus identify novel therapeutic targets for treating SMA.”

We’d like to acknowledge and applaud the work of the two remaining Award Grantees from the 2014 Emerging Investigator Awards program; Dr. Sara Custer of Indiana University School of Medicine and Dr. Faraz Farooq of Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. Your tireless work for the SMA cause is greatly appreciated and we look forward to tracking your progress in the future. Keep up the inspiring work!

This announcement brings our 2014 Emerging Investigator Awards program to a close. This is the second full year of the EIA program and we are extremely proud of what we have accomplished in a very short period of time. When we launched the program with FightSMA in 2013, our goal was to directly support and propel emerging SMA research talent to have an impact on carrying forward the incredible momentum that has been built in the SMA research community over the last twenty years. In just two years since its launch the EIA program has placed nearly $400,000 in funding with 8 researchers working on 8 unique SMA programs at 8 different institutions around the world.

Click HERE to read the joint press release with FightSMA about the 2014 EIA Finalist Grantee announcement.

Click HERE to read more about the 2014 Emerging Investigator Awards program.

Click HERE to read more about the 2013 Emerging Investigator Awards program.