May 8, 2013, Victoria BC - The Canadian Gene Cure Foundation (CGCF), in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) through its Institute of Genetics, is pleased to announce the awarding of a $90,000 Champions of Genetics: Building the Next Generation Grant to Dr. Faraz Farooq, a Scientist at the Children Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Research Institute.
Dr. Farooq's research aims to take a drug already used in the clinic today and study its effect on the rare disease Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). By testing the drugs in mice, both normal and mice with SMA, Dr. Farooq's team can establish whether the promising results from the lab can be replicated in living organisms. Assessing drugs already in clinical use has the advantage of speeding up the research process, particularly important for children with rare diseases.
Canadian scientists are world leaders in human genetic research and in the discovery and advancement of cures for inherited genetic diseases. The CGCF Champion of Genetics Award both honours the work of Canada's established scientists and provides inspiration and financial support to bright young researchers in the early years of their careers.
Genetic scientists just starting their research careers face many obstacles including heavy teaching assignments, low research budgets, and difficulties recruiting highly qualified personnel. The Next Generation Grant provides much needed funding to promising young scientists, such as Dr. Farooq, to hire graduate students or post doctoral researchers in their laboratories. The grant allows them to advance their own exciting genetic research while mentoring the next generation of scientists, thereby; thus perpetuating Canada's level of excellence in genetic research.
"My mentor, Dr. Alex MacKenzie inspired me through his approach of re-purposing drugs to fast track treatments for rare disorders," Dr. Farooq says. "Through his guidance I was able to identify clinic ready compounds which have shown promise as potential candidates for SMA treatment. With the help of the funding from CGCF we can narrow the gap of bringing these drugs from bench top to bedside."
To be eligible to apply for the grant, an applicant must have been nominated by a Champion of Genetics senior scientist as nominated by the CGCF Board of Directors. Dr. MacKenzie, an expert in the field of SMA, says Dr. Farooq is poised to make important contributions to clinical genetics. "Dr. Farooq conducts his research with tremendous energy and enthusiasm working enormously hard at the science but at the same time manifesting a real discipline with planning," Dr. MacKenzie says. "He shows a real insight conceptually as well as technically having very good hands at the benchtop."