The Alpha-1 Project Will Fund Ph.D. Fellowship Position at NIH’s NCATS
Fellowship will advance therapeutic strategies for Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency
MIAMI & WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Alpha-1 Project, the venture philanthropy arm of the Alpha-1 Foundation, today announced it will fund a two-year postdoctoral fellowship position at the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). Qualified applicants must hold a Ph.D. in chemical, molecular or cellular biology. The person selected will work in the NCATS Division of Preclinical Innovation’s Assay Development Screening Technology laboratory with drug discovery and development experts to advance a therapeutic strategy for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (Alpha-1). Alpha-1 is a rare genetic condition in which the body does not circulate enough of a protein that protects the lungs from damage.
“We’re thrilled by this excellent example of a public-private partnership working in close collaboration to cure Alpha-1”
Applicants must apply at (https://www.training.nih.gov/postdoc_jobs_nih/view/_31/2319/The_Alpha-1_Project_Fellowship_at_NCATS) by April 30, 2014.
The fellowship will be based on an innovative collaboration model commonly used at NCATS to involve patient groups proactively in the design and implementation of drug discovery projects. Groups like the Alpha-1 Foundation contribute scientific and thought leaders who not only bring deep knowledge of a specific disease, but also understand the patient perspective. Combining that expertise and knowledge with NCATS’ capabilities increases the odds for success in new therapeutic development.
“We’re thrilled by this excellent example of a public-private partnership working in close collaboration to cure Alpha-1,” said John W. Walsh, CEO and Co-founder of the Alpha-1 Foundation.
Alpha-1 can cause life-threatening liver disease in children. It also can lead to severe lung and liver disease in adults. The disease occurs when the body’s blood supply lacks a protein called alpha-1 antitrypsin, or A1AT. The liver is the main producer of A1AT. The protein’s primary function is to protect the lungs from inflammation caused by infection and inhaled irritants such as tobacco smoke.
People with Alpha-1 have an abnormal type of A1AT, and the liver cannot release this protein at a normal rate. The abnormal A1AT builds up in the liver, which can cause liver disease. In addition, the low levels of A1AT in the blood leave the lungs without needed protection, which can lead to lung disease. The work at NCATS will focus on small molecule screens in cell-based and biochemical assays targeting Alpha-1 that are designed to curb the effects of the abnormal A1AT protein.
“Our mission is to find cures and therapies for lung and liver diseases caused by Alpha-1. I see this partnership as a very efficient way to identify targets and therapeutics,” said Jean-Marc Quach, Executive Director of The Alpha-1 Project.
The selected fellow will receive training in assay development, screening techniques and data analysis from NCATS’ James Inglese, Ph.D., and his colleagues so he or she becomes equipped to lead a translational research project. In addition, a steering committee will advise project researchers and include representation from NCATS, the Alpha-1 Foundation, and lung and liver experts, who will review project progress every six months.
“Translational research is a multidisciplinary activity that requires effective communication across a range of technical expertise,” said Inglese, who leads the Assay Development Screening Technology laboratory. “Collaborations with patient groups can reduce the risks, time delays and costs typically associated with drug discovery and development research for rare or neglected diseases.”