MDA Adds Neurological Disease Expert to Research Team

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Lianna R. Orlando, Ph.D of Harvard University named Scientific Program Officer

“As we continue to build a powerful research team here at MDA, we are lucky to have Lianna be a part of it. She brings an incredible amount of expertise to the field of research development in the neurological space,” said Valerie A. Cwik, M.D.

As the Muscular Dystrophy Association continues to enhance its research and healthcare services programs, the organization has hired Scientific Program Officer Lianna R. Orlando, Ph.D. Orlando comes to MDA from Fidelity Biosciences Research Initiative where, as Associate Director, she oversaw funding of research projects in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease, and organized and hosted scientific conferences. Prior to her time at Fidelity, she was a junior faculty member at Massachusetts General Hospital, where her work focused on glutamate receptors and neurodegeneration. While Orlando completed her doctoral studies at Harvard University, she also earned an additional masters in Medicine from Harvard Medical School, in order to better understand human pathophysiology and more effectively translate findings from basic scientific research to the treatment of human disease. Her concentration on MDA’s research team will be managing the grant portfolios for muscles diseases such as myotonic dystrophy, congenital myopathies and mitochondrial myopathies.

“As we continue to build a powerful research team here at MDA, we are lucky to have Lianna be a part of it. She brings an incredible amount of expertise to the field of research development in the neurological space,” said Valerie A. Cwik, M.D., MDA Executive Vice President and Chief Medical and Scientific Officer. “MDA remains committed to pursuing lifesaving discoveries and I’m looking forward to working with Lianna and the team to ensure that MDA continues to prioritize progress for the families we serve and the larger research community.”

Lianna joins recently hired Scientific Program Officers, Amanda Haidet-Phillips, Ph.D and Laura Hagerty, Ph.D. All three women will report to Grace Pavlath, Ph.D, who joined MDA late last year as Senior Vice President and Scientific Program Director, and together will lead MDA as it accelerates new front-line discovery that lead to treatments and cures for various types of neuromuscular and motor neuron diseases.

MDA has an aggressive plan in place to significantly increase and refocus its research investments; forge new partnerships with biopharmaceutical companies and others; facilitate more clinical trials; improve the quality of care, services and therapies for families; and open new channels to connect with people who need MDA’s assistance. This past year MDA funded more than 290 research projects in 17 countries. It also operates a network of more than 150 clinics nationwide assisting more than 100,000 registered families.

“I am thrilled to join MDA at such an exciting time, when research is taking center stage,” Orlando said. “MDA has had a hand in nearly every in neuromuscular disease research breakthrough, and I look forward to applying my experience supporting research efforts in other areas to help the MDA continue to achieve its mission.”    

As MDA’s Scientific Program Officer, Orlando will be based in Boston. She will provide leadership for MDA through interactions with federal agencies, international neuromuscular disease partners, philanthropists, investors, drug development groups and bio-pharmaceutical companies, as well as with patient advocacy groups and other neuromuscular disease stakeholders.

About MDA

The Muscular Dystrophy Association is the world’s leading nonprofit health agency dedicated to saving and improving the lives of kids and adults with muscle disease, including muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neuromuscular diseases. It does so by funding worldwide research to find treatments and cures; by providing comprehensive health care services and support to MDA families nationwide; and by rallying communities to fight back through advocacy, fundraising and local engagement.

Visit mda.org and follow us at facebook.com/MDAnational and @MDAnews. Learn more about MDA's mission by watching this video.

Claire Orphan
Media Relations Manager
(312) 260-5928
corphan(at)mdausa(dot)org

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Claire Orphan
Muscular Dystrophy Association
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