For Immediate Release
Contact: Christopher Cosentino
Director of Marketing & Communications
Phone: (212) 242-1968 x229
Scientists working at Rush Medical College, University of Pittsburgh and
St. Mary’s College of California awarded fellowships to work on Huntington’s disease projects
New York, NY (April 21, 2015) — The Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2015 Donald A. King Summer Research Fellowships, a vital program to train the next-generation of scientists with research expertise in neurodegenerative disorders, especially Huntington’s disease. This year, a record number of applications from across the country were received. The HDSA Scientific Advisory Board carefully reviewed and scored the proposals using several criteria such as: the quality of the candidate’s academic achievements, mentoring plan for candidate, scientific rigor of the experimental design and feasibility to achieve significant deliverables in a short summer timeframe.
Three impressive students were selected as recipients of the 2015 Donald A. King Summer Research Fellowship:
- Patrick Hogan (Rush Medical College) will be working at Rush University Medical Center under the guidance of Drs. Jennifer Goldman and Kathleen Shannon on a project entitled “Clinical and imaging biomarkers of neuropsychiatric features in pre-manifest Huntington’s disease”. Patrick will utilize data from the PREDICT-HD study to better understand how neuropsychiatric symptoms in gene-positive, pre-manifest HD cases relate to brain atrophy, CAG length and disease burden.
- Rogan Grant (Haverford College). Rogan will spend the summer working with Dr. Joseph Glorioso on a project entitled “Development of an inducible CRISPR/Cas9 vector for huntingtin knockout”. Rogan’s project involves development of a promising genome-engineering tool called the CRISPR/Cas9 system to lower huntingtin. This huntingtin lowering tool will be expressed in human HD neurons using viruses that have the potential to cross the blood-brain-barrier. Use of brain penetrating viruses could increase the chances of delivering huntingtin lowering drugs to deep regions of the brain.
- Brianna Bibel (St. Mary’s College of California). Brianna will be working under the guidance of Dr. Steven Finkbeiner from the Gladstone Institute for Neurological Disease, as well as Dr. Vanessa Wheeler from Massachusetts General Hospital on a project entitled “Elucidating the role of somatic expansion in human HD neurons degeneration with nanobiopsy and longitudinal single cell analysis”. Brianna will combine the use of Dr. Finkbeiner’s automated microscopy technology and nanobiopsy of human HD neurons to determine if the number of CAG repeats in individual HD neurons expands over time and whether this expansion happens before neurodegeneration occurs.
HDSA established the Donald A. King Summer Research Fellowship program in 2005 in honor of Donald King who passed away in 2004. Don was a tireless advocate for HD families and served as HDSA’s Chairman of the Board from 1999 to 2003. The purpose of this fellowship program is two-fold: first, to attract the brightest young scientists into the field of Huntington’s disease research and secondly, to facilitate meaningful HD research to clarify the biological mechanisms underlying HD pathology.
Congratulations Patrick, Rogan and Brianna! We look forward to hearing about their promising research at upcoming HDSA meetings.
Huntington’s disease is a fatal genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. It deteriorates a person’s physical and mental abilities during their prime working years and has no cure. HD is known as the quintessential family disease because every child of a parent with HD has a 50/50 chance of carrying the faulty gene. Today, there are approximately 30,000 symptomatic Americans and more than 200,000 at-risk of inheriting the disease.
The Huntington’s Disease Society of America is the premier nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of everyone affected by HD. From community services and education to advocacy and research, HDSA is the world’s leader in providing help for today and hope for tomorrow for people with HD and their families.
To learn more about Huntington’s disease and the work of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, visit www.hdsa.org or call (800)345-HDSA.