The GSF and FightSMA Announce $62,500 Finalist for 2015 Emerging Investigator Award

Dr. Erkan Osman of the University of Missouri has been selected as the 2015 Finalist for the Emerging Investigator Award, an annual recognition established by FightSMA and the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation.

Since creating the Emerging Investigator Awards (EIA) in 2013, the two nonprofit organizations have awarded more than $500,000 to innovative, next-generation scientists working toward treatments for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), the leading genetic cause of infant death.

The $62,500 award will support Dr. Osman’s work over the next year to identify and define genetic targets within the disease-causing SMN gene.

“Ever since my decision to become a researcher,” said Dr. Osman, “my career goals have been focused on spinal muscular atrophy and SMA therapeutics.

“SMA research has advanced tremendously over the last decade,” said Dr. Osman, “and we are at the point where SMA-specific compounds are now in clinical trials. However, it is necessary that additional therapeutic targets are identified and expanded. Development of potential therapeutics for these high-impact targets will be essential for such a complex disease.

“The molecular context of SMA makes this disease especially attractive for nucleic acid-based therapeutics like antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) designed to modulate pre-mRNA splicing,” he said.

“The state of SMA research is extremely encouraging and we are grateful for the opportunity to continue supporting critical SMA research,” said Bill Strong, co-founder of the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation. “We are especially excited about Dr. Osman’s focus of expanding the treatment targets for all impacted by SMA.”

“The Emerging Investigator Awards are evidence of the commitment of our two organizations to keep working hard to identify the most promising compounds to develop for clinical trials,” said Joe Slay, Chair of FightSMA. “The Awards are also designed to encourage the best young talent across the globe to enter and stay in the SMA field.”

Past Emerging Investigator Award grantees:

  • Ottawa Hospital Research Institute: Dr. Lyndsay Murray
  • Johns Hopkins School of Medicine: Dr. Constantin d’Ydewalle
  • Cincinnati Children’s Hospital: Dr. Steven Crone
  • University of Missouri: Dr. Hansjorg Rindt
  • Ohio State University: Dr. Kevin Foust
  • Uniformed Services Univ. of the Health Sciences: Dr. Barrington G. Burnett
  • Indiana University School of Medicine: Dr. Sara Custer
  • Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario: Dr. Faraz Farooq
  • University of Oxford: Dr. Melissa Bowerman
  • University of Missouri: Dr. Erkan Osman
  • Indiana University School of Medicine: Dr. Anne Rietz
  • Columbia University: Dr. Eileen Workman

FightSMA is an all-volunteer, 501(c)3 nonprofit created to strategically accelerate research toward a treatment for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Since its founding 25 years ago, it has funded SMA research at 45 universities in five countries.

The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization created to change the future of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Inspired by their daughter, Gwendolyn, Bill and Victoria Strong started the GSF to fill voids in the SMA ecosystem by utilizing technology, social media, and branding to raise funds to further SMA research, provide technology grants, advocate for and support families impacted by SMA, and raise global awareness of this brutal disease.