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New York, NY, November 15, 2016 — Today, the Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA) announced that nine research grants have been awarded under the Society’s largest research initiative, the HDSA Huntington’s Disease Human Biology Project.  Totaling $930,000, these grants represent HDSA’s patient-centric research focus which brings basic and clinical researchers together to facilitate Huntington’s disease (HD) science in the human condition, instead of in animal models, with the direct participation of people affected by HD.

“Now in its fourth year, the HD Human Biology Project is the perfect combination of innovative patient-focused research and development of the world’s brightest young scientists to ensure a robust pipeline of researchers for the future”, said George Yohrling, PhD, Senior Director, Mission and Scientific Affairs at HDSA.  “This year’s fellows represent the best in pursuits of novel HD human biology from all around the globe, and their research will push the boundaries of HD knowledge to inform vital topics such as Juvenile-onset HD, biomarker identification, stem cell technology and symptomatic treatment.”

HDSA received applications from researchers from all around the world.  Ultimately, grants were awarded to nine research fellows, from the US, Canada and Spain.

The winners and titles of the 2016 HDSA HD Human Biology Project Grants are:

  • Dr. Madeleine Sharp, Assistant Professor, McGill University, Canada: Striatal-dependent reward processing: A substrate for early behavioral symptoms in Huntington’s disease
  • Dr. Wasim Malik, Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital: Oculomotor assessment as a potential biomarker for Huntington’s disease
  • Steven Marinero, Graduate Student, Duke University: Brain infiltration of peripheral blood mononuclear cells in driving neurodegeneration in Huntington’s disease
  • Dr. Natalia Pessoa Rocha, Research Fellow, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston: Microglial activation in HD: A structural and functional study
  • Alan Phipps, Graduate Student, Indiana University: Efficacy of tDCS for improving gait in HD
  • Dr. Rocio Gomez-Pastor, Research Fellow, Duke University: Prevention of subnormal degradation of the neuronal protective factor HSF1 in Huntington’s disease
  • Lisa Salazar, Assistant Project Scientist, University of California at Irvine: Molecular and cellular assessment of huntingtin lowering in differentiated patient-derived HD iPSCs.
  • Charles Mosier, Research Associate, University of California at San Diego: Proximal Huntingtin Protein Interaction Networks in Human Juvenile and Early Adult HD Brains Analyzed by Proteomics and Systems Biology
  • Veronica Ines Brito, Research Fellow, University of Barcelona Medical School: Study of mitochondrial outcomes as biomarkers of Huntington´s Disease progression and/or readouts of pharmacological interventions


For a complete summary of these nine research projects, please visit

“HDSA is proud to support these talented individuals who are bringing their curiosity and insights into the HD field,” said Louise Vetter, Chief Executive Officer of HDSA.  “The HD Human Biology Project is a unique and important research program which continues our tradition of moving HD science forward so that improved care and potential cures can be made available to families affected by HD as soon as possible.”

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. Each child of a parent with HD has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the faulty gene that causes Huntington’s disease. Today, there are approximately 30,000 symptomatic Americans and more than 200,000 at-risk of inheriting the disease. The symptoms of Huntington’s disease are described as having ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s – simultaneously.

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 or call 1-800-345-HDSA.

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