Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awards First Audrey Lewis Young Investigator Award to Dr. George Mentis of Columbia University.

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Elk Grove Village Families of SMA is pleased to announce that the first Audrey Lewis Young Investigator Award has been granted to Dr. George Z. Mentis at Columbia University for a research grant of $200,000.

Audrey Lewis founded Families of SMA 26 years ago. One of the critical goals Audrey first formulated when starting Families of SMA was to attract new and talented researchers to the SMA field. She recognized early on that enabling researchers to commit their careers to SMA would be essential to the SMA community’s success in finding treatments for this devastating disease. We hope that legacy continues with this new FSMA grant award given in her honor, with its intention of making a positive impact on the early phase of a talented researcher’s career by enabling them to focus on the SMA field.

Dr. Mentis is in his first year as an Assistant Professor at Columbia University. The title of his project is SMA as a Progressive Synaptic Disease. It will focus on the effects of SMA on motor neurons within the central nervous system. This aspect of motor neuron function has been relatively unexplored with much of the emphasis on the neuromuscular synapse thus far. These studies will explore the timing and onset of motor neuron loss and the effects of the disease in different types of motor neurons to determine whether certain populations are more effected than others. This should provide a better understanding of the disease impact on motor neurons within the central nervous system, which will in turn provide more rational targeting of therapeutic strategies.

According to Dr. Mentis; "Unraveling the time course of pathological changes in motor neurons and other neurons that communicate with them, seen in preliminary experiments using an animal model of SMA, will be critical in understanding the disease mechanisms"

This grant was awarded through our basic grant program, which is administered by our Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). The SAB helps us review, prioritize and select grant applications each year to ensure FSMA funds only the best research projects.

The award was announced during the 2010 SMA Conference main awards banquet.

The Audrey Lewis Young Investigator Award is presented to a newly independent principal investigator in the first 5 years of running a laboratory. This grant is awarded every 2 years.

About Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy:
FSMA is dedicated to creating a treatment and cure by: Funding and advancing a comprehensive research program; Supporting SMA families through networking, information and services; Improving care for all SMA patients; Educating health professionals and the public about SMA; Enlisting government support a; Embracing all touched by SMA in a caring community. http://www.curesma.org

Contact Information:
Families of SMA
925 Busse Road
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
Phone (800) 886-1762
Fax (847) 367-7623


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Laura Franzen

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