‘Ice Bucket’ Donations Put More Hands in the Lab for SMA

Remember the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” that went hyper-viral in the heat of summer 2014 – the online video campaign that involved dumping a bucket of ice water over your head to promote awareness of ALS and encourage donations to advance research? It was an amazing social media phenomenon that seemed to reach most of the planet and raised well over $100M for ALS research. Incredible.

It has also positively impacted an ALS “sister” condition, SMA. Similar to ALS but in babies, SMA kills more young children than any other genetic condition. In short, SMA is brutal. Robbing those impacted of the ability to move physically, while never affecting the mind. There are care options, but there is no treatment or cure. Yet.

Here at the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation, we like to continually assess the research landscape in an effort to create unique solutions to help fill the voids in the SMA research community. Over the last five years we have funded 11 different SMA research programs and created a unique grant challenge focused on inspiring emerging investigators to the SMA cause. Momentum in the SMA research realm is promising, but there is still much work to be done.

In the summer of 2014, during the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” supporters around the world started dumping icy water over their heads to support the GSF and the SMA cause. All in, hundreds of supporters raised $10,000 for the GSF. We were shocked people were making the connection between SMA and ALS and deciding to use their ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ to raise awareness of SMA and critical funding to help end it. And we wanted to make sure that every single penny of the $10,000 raised through their efforts went specifically to advance SMA research.

And so, we are honored to announce the creation of the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation Research Scholarship. Using the $10,000 in ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ funds we proudly awarded our first scholarship grant to Dr. Lyndsay Murray of The University of Edinburgh. Dr. Murray’s lab focuses on investigating the cellular and molecular mechanisms which make motor neurons vulnerable to degeneration in SMA and other conditions. This targeted $10,000 research scholarship will place a masters student in Dr. Murray’s lab for an entire year.

From Dr. Lyndsay Murray: “As my laboratory is relatively new, one of the key limiting steps is the recruitment and funding of personnel to carry out the research. This award will provide critical funding to put hands in the lab to continue our research into SMA. In addition, this funding will bring a new young scientist into the SMA research community, which will contribute to the future of SMA research.”

Think about that. Simple buckets of icy water. Raised tons of broad awareness of rare neuromuscular conditions. Raised mountains of funding for research to help end them. And in the case of the GSF and SMA, these buckets of icy water will help a masters student through their graduate program, place critical hands in an SMA lab for a year, and potentially lead to inspiring that masters student to focus their research career on helping change the future of SMA. That’s pretty powerful. 

THANK YOU for selecting us for your icy challenge and supporting our vision to change SMA! YOU have truly made a difference!