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MDA Names Dr. Grace Pavlath to Head Scientific Program as Research Department Intensifies Focus on Ushering Treatments Through Drug Pipeline

CHICAGO, September 25, 2014 – Dr. Grace Pavlath, an accomplished muscle disease researcher and tenured professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the Emory University School of Medicine, has been named as MDA Senior Vice President – Scientific Program Director. Beginning October 31, Dr. Pavlath will become a key member of MDA’s Mission Leadership Team and will be responsible for overall management and further development of MDA’s scientific program focused on delivering effective therapies for more than 40 neuromuscular diseases and ALS.

“For almost 30 years, Dr. Pavlath has established herself as a leading researcher in cellular and molecular mechanisms that are critical for muscle growth and repair,” said Executive Vice President and Chief Medical and Scientific Officer Valerie Cwik, M.D., who will work closely with Pavlath in maintaining the results-driven focus of MDA’s program. “She brings a profound understanding and insider’s knowledge to today’s research landscape and will play a critical role in further leveraging MDA’s clinic infrastructure and research programs while working collaboratively with industry stakeholders.” 

“Dr. Pavlath’s breadth of experience including her deep immersion in neuromuscular research, teaching, mentorship and international scientific leadership roles will serve MDA well as we strengthen our vital commitment to therapy development, which is so critical to MDA’s mission to save and improve lives of people fighting muscle disease,” said MDA President and CEO Steven M. Derks. “We’re thrilled to have someone with Grace's skills join our fight. This is a pivotal time in our history, when we are poised on the brink of new discoveries. Some of our MDA-funded researchers who’ve been working in the field for decades are so encouraged by the progress being made and the clinical trials underway that they tell us they feel more hopeful than at any other time in their careers.”

MDA has redoubled its urgency and commitment to its research program, having adopted strategies that demand a more intentional and proactive perspective on the grant proposal process, with new goals and measurables embedded within the program. MDA plans to direct a greater percentage of its research budget to therapy development. Furthermore, MDA will endeavor to identify key areas to invest research dollars and help identify any gaps in therapy development strategy while proactively requesting grant proposals to fill in those gaps.

“We want more drugs moving through the development pipeline,” said Cwik. “The goal is to get them out of the laboratory, through FDA approval and ultimately to individuals affected.” MDA is seeking to double the number of drugs being funding annually through its translational research program.

“I am thrilled and honored to join MDA at a time when we are identifying strategies to overturn obstacles in therapy development, actively seeking to accelerate progress for the sake of the children and adults MDA serves,” said Pavlath. “I look forward to strengthening my relationships with members of the neuromuscular disease community, so that together we can assess research needs and scientific opportunities that will accelerate and meet MDA’s mission objectives.”

As MDA’s scientific program leader, Pavlath will be based in Atlanta and will provide leadership for MDA through interactions with federal agencies, international neuromuscular disease partners, drug development groups and pharmaceutical companies, as well as with patient advocacy groups and other neuromuscular disease stakeholders while meeting the organization’s core standards of excellence. She will also represent MDA at national and international neuromuscular scientific meetings and as an advocate on Capitol Hill in behalf of the families served by MDA.

Pavlath, a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, received her Ph.D. in Pharmacology from Stanford University and did postdoctoral training at Stanford University and the University of Arizona. She joined Emory University in 1994 as an assistant professor. She is currently a professor in the Department of Pharmacology at Emory.

Pavlath’s scientific work has been widely published in peer review journals, and she is the recipient of numerous research grants from the National Institutes of Health, American Heart Association, Emory University, as well as the Muscular Dystrophy Association. She has served and currently serves on numerous national, international and institutional committee memberships, and has organized and chaired several conferences with the focus ranging from skeletal muscle and stem cells to muscle development, function and repair. She has also been a member of the MDA Scientific Advisory Committee since 2008.

About MDA

The Muscular Dystrophy Association is the world’s leading nonprofit health agency dedicated to saving and improving the lives of anyone 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.

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