MDA's 'Bridge-to-Industry' Program Awards Second Grant

A program that prepares young scientists for careers in drug development has awarded a grant for the study of muscle repair-boosting compounds

Bridging a gap: MDA's Bridge-to-Industry (B2I) grants seek to bridge the gap between the academic world and industry.
Article Highlights:
  • MDA's Bridge to Industry program, launched in 2012, gives young scientists grants to study drug development for neuromuscular disorders by providing them with mentors in academia and industry.
  • Christopher Penton will study compounds that boost muscle repair and dampen muscle scar formation at the University of Arizona and pharmaceutical company Sanofi.
by Margaret Wahl on August 22, 2013 - 5:00am

Christopher Penton recently completed his doctorate (Ph.D.) in integrated biomedical sciences at Ohio State University in Columbus.

Christopher Penton, who recently completed his doctorate in integrated biomedical sciences at Ohio State University in Columbus, is the second recipient of an MDA Bridge-to-Industry (B2I) grant, part of a program launched by the Association in 2012 to help prepare professionals who want to work in drug development for neuromuscular disorders. Penton will receive $180,000 over three years, starting in July 2013.

B2I, part of MDA's translational research program, seeks to bridge the gap between the academic environment and the biopharmaceutical industry environment by providing experience in both to promising young scientists.

"The Bridge to Industry is a unique opportunity for young researchers to learn the language of both academia and industry," said Jane Larkindale, MDA vice president of research. "We hope that at the end of this program, Christopher will be prepared to successfully develop drugs in either an academic or an industrial setting. Furthermore, if his project is successful, we will have insight into new compounds that may protect muscle in muscular dystrophies and will have developed a successful partnership with industry to bring them forward."

Penton is investigating ways to increase muscle regeneration and repair and reduce fibrosis (scarring) in muscle tissue as a way to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and potentially other muscular dystrophies.

In mice with a DMD-like disorder, Penton has found that stem cells that lead to formation of fat and scar tissue overpower stem cells that form and repair muscle.

In his B2I project, Penton hopes to identify compounds that shift this balance toward repair of muscle fibers and away from scar formation. During this project, he'll have an academic and an industry mentor.

Ron Allen, an animal scientist at The University of Arizona who has received MDA funding to study muscle repair, will be Penton's academic mentor. Paul August, Director and U.S. Head, Early to Candidate Unit at the Oro Valley, Ariz., offices of pharmaceutical company Sanofi will serve as his industry mentor.

"My specific goals include training in the drug target discovery process for DMD in academic and industry settings," Penton said. "I expect to interact with the co-mentors of the project on a weekly basis in order to maintain progress and maximize collaboration. Additionally, I plan to interact on a daily basis with scientists and staff at either of the research sites to gain an understanding of operations in both academia and industry."

MDA launched the Bridge-to-Industry training program in August 2012, with an initial grant to Archi Joardar. Joardar is working on drug development for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at The University of Arizona in Tucson and the BIO5 Oro Valley (Ariz.) Translational Drug Discovery and Development Center.

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