FightSMA Awards $250,000 Grant to Gene Researcher at The Ohio State University
(Richmond, Virginia ) —Richmond, Virginia-based FightSMA, a nonprofit dedicated to developing a treatment for the deadly childhood crippler spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), is awarding a $250,000 research grant to Dr. Brian Kaspar, a principal investigator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and associate professor of The Ohio State University.
The grant will support safety and toxicity studies for AAV(-9), a potential “delivery system” for gene therapy for the treatment of SMA. “Our SMA gene therapy program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University continues to show great promise for treating SMA patients,” said Dr. Kaspar. “With this award, we will be able to test our therapy for potential safety or toxicity issues and provide important information for the regulatory process as we advance our program to the clinic in a swift and safe manner. We are all very thankful for the support of FightSMA.”
The grant has been made possible by funding both from FightSMA and from its associated partner organization, The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation. “We are tremendously excited about the potential for gene therapy in SMA and our continuing collaboration with The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation and the SMA Community,” said FightSMA President Martha Slay. “Gene therapy research is a marathon run, but the work of Dr. Kaspar will advance the field significantly for SMA.”
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is the leading genetic cause of infant death. SMA is caused by the absence of a gene that is critical for muscle strength, the SMN (“survivor motor neuron”) gene. That gene is absent in approximately one in 30 individuals. If both a man and woman are lacking the necessary SMN gene, the chances are 25% that any of their children will manifest SMA.
An objective of gene therapy is the restoration of the missing gene through delivery systems called “vectors.” Adeno-associated virus (AAV) is considered to be an attractive candidate for the construction of vectors.
FightSMA was created in 1991 with the mission to “strategically accelerate the development of a treatment or a cure for spinal muscular atrophy.” Working with the guidance of an international Scientific Advisory Committee, FightSMA has awarded SMA research grants at more than 40 universities and research institutions in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy. FightSMA has chapters across the United States and in Canada.
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