New Research Grants Aim to Help MDA Families Live Unlimited

GP-head-shot-FINAL-crop-300x290This summer MDA challenged our families, friends, sponsors, staff and others around the nation to share their stories about living life without limits despite the challenges of neuromuscular disease. Some shared moments tied to pursuing an education or career that was thought to be out of reach. Some talked about skydiving, hiking or running a marathon, and others mentioned learning to sing or swim, spending time with family or traveling to faraway places. However #LiveUnlimited moments are defined, MDA is working hard around the clock to make more of them possible.

One of the many ways we’re helping create these precious moments is through our research grants, which fund projects designed to drill down to the bottom of the many diseases covered in our program and work toward finding treatments and cures to slow and stop them.

I’m happy to announce that on Aug. 1 MDA began funding 25 new research, development and research infrastructure grants. This is in addition to 41 such grants awarded earlier this year. Together the two rounds of research awards carry a funding commitment of more than $17 million that is now supporting investigators around the world seeking to advance the state of science and make more #LiveUnlimited moments a reality.

Numbers represent proof point of our commitment

For this latest round of awards, MDA reviewed 226 applications and had sufficient funds to approve funding for approximately 10 percent of them — 25 grants with a total funding commitment of $6.7 million. Here are some highlights:

  • Laura Ranum, professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at the University of Florida in Gainesville, was awarded an MDA research grant totaling $146,712 over two years to develop an antibody therapy as a potential treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
  • Pier Lorenzo Puri, associate professor in the development, aging and regeneration program at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla, Calif., was awarded an MDA research grant totaling $298,965 over a period of three years to increase understanding about the complexity of cellular interactions that underlie disease progression in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
  • Joel Chamberlain, research associate professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, was awarded an MDA research grant totaling $300,000 over a period of three years to increase understanding of the role of DUX4 protein in facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD).
  • Marek Napierala, an assistant professor in biochemistry and molecular genetics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, was awarded an MDA grant totaling $279,518 over a period of three years to investigate a therapeutic strategy for Friedreich’s ataxia (FA).
  • Madhuri Hegde, associate professor in the department of human genetics at Emory University in Atlanta, was awarded an MDA research infrastructure grant totaling $300,000 over a period of three years to continue groundbreaking work to identify and characterize new gene defects that can cause limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD).
  • Marilena D’Aurelio, assistant professor of research in neuroscience at Cornell University in New York, was awarded an MDA research grant totaling $300,000 over a period of three years to examine changes in metabolism that occur in mitochondrial myopathies (MM) and may be used as biomarkers of disease progression.
  • Lyndsay Murray, a lecturer in anatomy at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland, United Kingdom, was awarded an MDA research grant totaling $292,174 over a period of three years to investigate how the mechanisms underlying spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) influence how therapies work at different stages of the disease.

For more information on all the new grants, check out MDA’s Grants at a Glance.

MDA’s current research commitment totals about 150 research projects around the world, each of these a step forward toward treatments and cures.

Grants have impact across disease boundaries

At MDA, we know breakthroughs don’t happen in isolation. One of the advantages of being an umbrella organization is the power in the big-picture approach we’re able to take toward finding the breakthroughs that will lead to treatments and cures.

MDA supports the world’s best scientists who are working on projects that will make an impact across the boundaries of the diseases in our program. This means that a single grant could easily advance clinical trial preparedness in both Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies; one project may shed light on underlying disease processes in limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, inclusion-body myopathy and myofibrillar myopathies; another may inform therapeutic development for both ALS and spinal muscular atrophy.

As a result of our $1 billion in research investments over the last six decades, MDA’s fingerprints are on nearly every major advance in neuromuscular disease research. With all of our 2016 grant awards, we are continuing to fund the research that will change the neuromuscular disease landscape and make a difference in the lives of our families and loved ones.

Find out how you can fund cures and champion the cause at