MDF Announces $300,000 in New Research Fellowships

Published on Tue, 01/09/2018

Helping Expand the Number of Researchers Committed to DM Research

Ensuring the entry and development of young researchers working on myotonic dystrophy is a vital goal for the Wyck Foundation and MDF. MDF’s annual competitive call for applications from trainees helps ensure that there is a critical mass of researchers engaged in work on myotonic dystrophy. MDF received fourteen applications from the U.S., Canada and Western Europe for the December fellowship proposal review, a very compelling number reflecting growing interest in DM research and more widespread knowledge of MDF’s nine-year-old fellowship funding program.

2018 Awards Include Both Doctoral Students and Post-Docs

For the first time, the 2018 research fellowships program invited applicants enrolled in Ph.D. degree programs as well as those engaged in postdoctoral research projects to respond to the annual Request for Applications. MDF made the change to include pre-doctoral students after discussions with both professionals from the National Institutes of Health and the MDF Scientific Advisory Committee regarding how best to attract top-level researchers to the DM field.

The fourteen applications were reviewed by a panel of eight established scientists with strong experience and expertise in myotonic dystrophy. With the advice of the review panels and the Board, the Wyck Foundation and MDF made four awards for 2-year fellowships.

2018-2019 Wyck/MDF Fellowship Awardees:

Two awards were made to pre-doctoral students enrolled in Ph.D. degree programs:

  • Florent Porquet is a Ph.D. candidate in the Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Epigenetics and Laboratory of Neurophysiology at the University of Liège, Belgium. Under the guidance of his mentor, Prof. Seutin Vincent, Florent is working on a project entitled: “CRISPRi-induced transcriptional silencing of DMPK as a therapeutic strategy against myotonic dystrophy type 1.” He is evaluating a gene editing strategy in DM1 patient muscle cells in culture and in an animal model of DM1.
  • Ashish Rao is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Pathology and Immunology at Baylor College of Medicine. His dissertation project, “Tissue-specific expression of expanded CUG repeat RNA to investigate the cardiac pathogenesis of myotonic dystrophy type 1,” resides in the laboratory of Dr. Thomas Cooper.

Two awards were made to post-docs:

  • Dr. Kiruphagaran Thangaraju is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology at the University of Florida, working under the supervision of Dr. Laura Ranum.  His project, “Molecular characterization of RNA and RAN protein effects in DM2,” examines the role a novel disease mechanism, discovered in the Ranum lab, plays in DM2.
  • Dr. Curtis Nutter is a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for NeuroGenetics at the University of Florida, working under the supervision of Dr. Maury Swanson. In his project, entitled “Congenital myotonic dystrophy: pathomechanism and therapeutic development, ” Dr. Nutter is exploring the role that maldevelopment of skeletal muscle plays in CDM and whether treatment strategies aimed at this mechanism may have value in CDM.

MDF congratulates each of the awardees for their success in a competitive field of applicants. The Research Fellows will be attending and presenting posters of their work at the 2018 MDF Conference.