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MDA Launches 'Bridge-To-Industry' Pilot Project Innovative Program Facilitates Drug Developement and Trains Researchers in Translational Research

TUCSON, Ariz. —The Muscular Dystrophy Association today announced the launch of its Bridge-to-Industry (B2I) program, a pilot project designed to train promising researchers in translational research by providing experience both in academia and the biopharmaceutical industry.

Translational research refers to the lengthy and complex “translation” of promising laboratory findings into marketable drugs.

"B2I is the first program of its kind," said Jane Larkindale, director of MDA's translational research program, which oversees the B2I program. "MDA is pleased to take a lead role in accelerating the drug development process for neuromuscular diseases through innovative programs like B2I."

Through the B2I program, MDA will fund investigators to conduct drug development research under the guidance of two mentors: one experienced in academic research and the other in the industrial side of drug development.

"MDA has a distinguished track record in training basic and clinical researchers in neuromuscular disease," said Sanjay Bidichandani, MDA vice president of research. "The B2I program will now fill another crucial gap: the growing need for highly qualified translational researchers who have expertise in modern drug research and development."

Postdoctoral fellow Archi Joardar at the University of Arizona in Tucson was awarded the first B2I grant. The funds, totaling $180,000 over three years, will help support Joardar's efforts to develop two promising drug candidates for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Daniela Zarnescu, associate professor in neuroscience and molecular & cellular biology at the College of Science, University of Arizona (UA), will serve as Joardar's academic mentor. Zarnescu currently has an active MDA research grant for her work on gene and drug discovery research in a fruit fly model that carries a mutation in the ALS-associated TDP43 gene.

Mentoring from the industry side will come from Chris Hulme, co-director of the BIO5 Institute in Oro Valley, Ariz. Hulme is an expert in small-molecule drug design and the development of chemical-based methods to hasten the drug discovery process.

"The B2I program is an exquisite opportunity for UA researchers to collaborate with the biopharmaceutical industry," said Joaquin Ruiz, dean of the College of Science, University of Arizona. "Through this innovative partnership, we hope to shape discoveries that can contribute to transformative drug research and development."

"This new research collaboration between two of our flagship organizations is just another example of why Tucson is quickly becoming known as 'America's Science City,'" added Christopher Bannon, economic and enterprise development officer, University of Arizona College of Science.

For information on recent MDA grants, including research, development and clinical research training grants, visit Grants at a Glance, a special feature with photos and information on the new MDA grantees and their research.

For information on the approximately 300 active research grants currently supported by MDA, view this PDF.

To learn more about B2I, check out “MDA Launches ‘Bridge-to-Industry’ Training Program.”


About ALS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) attacks the nerve cells that control muscles, ultimately resulting in paralysis of all voluntary muscles, including those used for breathing. Average life expectancy for people with the disease is three to five years after diagnosis.


About MDA

MDA is the nonprofit health agency dedicated to curing muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases by funding worldwide research. The Association also provides comprehensive health care and support services, advocacy and education.

In addition to funding some 300 research projects worldwide, MDA maintains a national network of 200 medical clinics; facilitates hundreds of support groups for families affected by neuromuscular diseases; and provides local summer camp opportunities for thousands of youngsters fighting progressive muscle diseases.

For more information, visit and follow us on Facebook ( and Twitter (@MDAnews).


About the University of Arizona College of Science

The University of Arizona College of Science brings together globally prominent faculty in disciplines at the core of scientific inquiry and education. One of the largest colleges at the University of Arizona, the 21 academic departments and schools encompass the range of physical, mathematical, environmental, cognitive and life sciences. With nearly 7,500 undergraduate and graduate students, it is an integrative learning institution where accomplished faculty and next-generation scientists engage side-by-side in groundbreaking research on a scale, according to the National Science Foundation, that exceeds all other colleges of science.


About BIO5 Institute

The BIO5 Institute at the University of Arizona mobilizes top researchers in five disciplines — agriculture, engineering, medicine, pharmacy, and science — to find creative, collaborative solutions to humanity’s most pressing health and environmental challenges. Since 2001, its multidisciplinary approach has been an international model of how to conduct collaborative research and has resulted in improved food crops, innovative diagnostic devices, and promising new therapies. In addition, BIO5 supports the next generation of scientists through its science education, outreach and training programs throughout Arizona. Importantly, BIO5 also plays a vital role in impacting Southern Arizona’s economy though jobs and funding. Learn more at