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Sanford Scientist Lands Grant to Support Batten Disease Research

Oct 26, 2015 04:46PM ● By MED Magazine

A Sanford Research scientist has received nearly $440,000 to support her research of a rare neurodegenerative disease that affects mostly children. Jill Weimer, PhD, is the recipient of a one-year grant from the Charlotte and Gwenyth Gray Foundation to Cure Batten Disease.


The Gray Foundation was created by Kristen and Gordon Gray, whose two young daughters are battling Batten disease. Weimer’s lab is among only a few in the world studying the condition, which is a group of neurodegenerative diseases most commonly found in children that can cause seizures, blindness, motor and cognitive decline and premature death. Genetic mutations disrupt the ability of cells to dispose of waste and causes abnormal accumulation of proteins and lipids within nerve cells.


Weimer’s research is complimented by collaboration with leading scientists at major universities across the United States and cooperation with another Batten disease lab run by Sanford Research President David Pearce, PhD.


Using cells derived from patients with Batten disease and mouse models, the grant funding will allow Weimer to screen several different treatment methods, which could include gene therapy or stem cells.


“Because conditions like Batten disease are rare and may not receive the awareness they deserve, it is critical that organizations like the Gray Foundation exist to fund and advance research,” said Weimer. “By focusing our efforts on what we believe to be key therapies, we hope to expedite a clinical trial for this aggressive disease.”


Weimer recently appeared with the Grays on the national television show “The Doctors” to help raise awareness of Batten disease and their foundation.