About HDSA’s Scientific Advisory Board

The HDSA Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) is comprised of leading experts in their fields. The Scientific Advisory Board’s role is to advise the Board of Trustees and HDSA Management on a range of issues. In general, the SAB provides scientific review of research proposals to ensure that the research programs at HDSA are scientifi­cally sound, pertinent and provide a high impact to the HD research community.

The SAB can be called upon to advise HDSA on any scientific issues that may arise (e.g., stem cell policy, use of animals in research).

The Committee’s specific responsibilities include:

  • Periodically reviewing HDSA’s medical and scientific affairs strategy and recommending funding for research grant awards.
  • Significantly expanding HDSA’s research commitments.
  • Define and administer HDSA’s research program, including RFP development, proposal review and grant oversight.
  • Providing speakers and research programs for major HDSA events i.e., the annual HDSA Convention.

Meet the Board

Leslie Thompson, PhD

Scientific Advisory Board Chair

Leslie Thompson, PhD

Scientific Advisory Board Chair

University of California at Irvine Professor, Psychiatry & Human Behavior

Neil Aronin, MD

Neil Aronin, MD

Professor of Medicine and Cell Biology Chief, Endocrinology and Metabolism Co-Director, Neuro-Therapeutics Institute, University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Dr. Aronin’s research focuses on developing gene silencing for therapy in Huntington’s disease, an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disease. The laboratory uses allele selective RNAi to silence the mutant huntingtin and preserve wild type huntingtin. The research team explores potential therapies and neuronal pathophysiology attributable to the mutant huntingtin. The team also studies viral delivery of allele selective shRNAmir, with single stranded and self-complementary adeno-associated virus. Dr. Aronin’s team studies next-generation therapeutics that will be applicable to a spectrum of autosomal dominant diseases, as well as studying mechanisms of pathogenesis in Huntington’s disease: mutant huntingtin mRNA kinetics, vesicle recycling and roles of proteins that interact with mutant huntingtin.

Susan Browne, PhD

Susan Browne, PhD

Teva, Director of CNS Discovery

Tanya Garcia, PhD

Tanya Garcia, PhD

Dr. Tanya P. Garcia is an Associate Professor of Biostatistics at the Gillings School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has a long-standing interest in interdisciplinary collaborations, beginning as a graduate student and continuing through her current collaborations where she develops practical methods that address challenges in neurodegenerative disease research and advance the statistical theory underlying those methods. She received the Huntington’s Disease Society of America Human Biology Project Fellowship in 2013-2015 which directly led to a K01 from the NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Her research focuses on extracting maximal information from large, highly correlated data structures, and innovating new prediction models and variable selection techniques to discover more accurate ways to model motor, cognitive, and functional impairments linked to Huntington disease.

Michelle Gray, PhD

Michelle Gray, PhD

Dr. Michelle Gray is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is the Dixon Scholar in Neuroscience, focused on the study of Huntington’s Disease. Dr. Gray earned her Ph.D. from the Ohio State University and performed post-doctoral training at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Dr. Gray is a laboratory scientist who has worked on Huntington’s Disease for the last 10 years. She has been an invited speaker and presenter of her work at multiple Huntington’s Disease focused meetings including those sponsored by the Hereditary Disease Foundation and CHDI,Inc. In addition, she has presented updates on Huntington’s Disease to the Alabama Academy of Neurology and participated in Huntington’s Disease Education Day sponsored by the HDSA Center for Excellence at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

David Howland, PhD

David Howland, PhD

CHDI Foundation, Director of Model System

Dr. Holly Kordasiewicz

Dr. Holly Kordasiewicz

Dr. Holly Kordasiewicz is Vice President of Neurology Research at Ionis Pharmaceuticals, a company that specializes in RNA therapeutics. Dr. Kordasiewicz heads a team focused on identifying antisense oligonucleotide therapeutics for currently untreatable neurodegenerative diseases, including drugs now in clinical trials for ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. Dr. Kordasiewicz joined Ionis 8 years ago after working on the preclinical validation for Ionis’ Huntington’s disease program as a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Don Cleveland at the University of California at San Diego. Dr. Kordasiewicz began her work on understanding neurodegenerative diseases at the University of Minnesota, where she received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience.

Blair Leavitt, MD, CM, FRCPC

Blair Leavitt, MD, CM, FRCPC

Senior Scientist, CMMT and BCCHRI UBC Director, Transgenic Core Facility Professor, Department of Medical Genetics UBC Neurogenetics Director of Research & Neurologist, Centre for Huntington Disease

Marcy MacDonald, PhD

Marcy MacDonald, PhD

Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA

Dr. Marcy MacDonald obtained her Ph.D. in Medical Biophysics from the University of Toronto in 1980 and is currently a Professor of Neurology (Genetics) at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital, where she is a founding member of the Center for Human Genetic Research.

Dr. MacDonald became involved in Huntington’s disease research in 1985, joining Dr. James Gusella in an international collaboration that identified the Huntington’s disease gene in 1993, improving the diagnosis and management of the disorder. Her research pioneers the use of genetic mouse models and genetic studies in human samples to contribute knowledge essential to the development of effective therapies for Huntington’s disease.

Dr. MacDonald has served the HDSA as co-chair of the Grants and Fellowship Committee (1998-2003). She is the Chair of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Committee (2008-2011) and for the more than two decades has spoken about Huntington’s disease research at HDSA events for local chapters and at the annual convention.

Melissa Moser

Melissa Moser

Family Representative Novartis, Marketing Director

Harry Orr, PhD

Harry Orr, PhD

Tulloch Professor of Genetics, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology,Director, Institute of Translational Neuroscience, University of Minnesota

Harry Orr received his Ph.D. from Washington University and completed his postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard. Dr. Orr’s research explores genes that play a role in neuron deterioration. This offers important implications for developing gene therapy and other types of treatments for patients with neurodegenerative diseases. Orr discovered the genetic basis for spinocerebellar ataxia type 1, an inherited and ultimately fatal movement disorder, like HD SCA1 is due to a polyglutamine expansion. Orr directs the Institute of Translational Neuroscience, created to translate laboratory research discoveries into clinical trials of new therapies.

Amber Southwell, PhD

Amber Southwell, PhD

Dr. Amber L. Southwell, Assistant Professor, Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, Division of Neuroscience, has been working in preclinical therapy development for Huntington disease (HD) since 2002. In 2009 she earned her PhD at the California Institute of Technology working with Dr. Paul Patterson to develop an intrabody gene therapy for HD. From 2009-2016, she did postdoctoral research at the University of British Columbia with Dr. Michael Hayden where she developed several novel mouse models of HD, a selective mutant huntingtin gene silencing therapy, and a CSF biomarker for brain huntingtin. She began her laboratory research group at the University of Central Florida in January 2017, where she continues these studies as well as new research on modifiers of disease onset. 

Emily Troncoso

Emily Troncoso

Emily Troncoso is a Deputy General Counsel with Navy Federal Credit Union.  She manages litigation and regulatory compliance on issues relating to Navy Federal products, services, and members.  Prior to this role, she was a litigation attorney with WilmerHale, a Washington law firm.  She received her undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard University, and she served as a judicial clerk for Hon. Richard J. Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. 

 

Emily is originally from outside Philadelphia.  She now lives in northern Virginia with her husband and two children.  Her mother was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease in 2008.  Previously, Emily has served as a board member for the D.C. Metro chapter of Huntington’s Disease Society of America and the Friends of Georgetown University HD Center.