Western Washington University Associate Professor of Psychology Jeff Carroll has secured an $100,000 grant to assist in his continuing research into the causes and potential treatments for Huntington’s disease, a fatal genetic degenerative brain disorder.
The new funding is from Ionis Pharmaceuticals, a Carlsbad-based biotechnology company with a longstanding interest in Huntington's disease. Ionis and their partner Roche Pharmaceuticals recently announced the successful completion of a Phase 1/2a study for an experimental Huntington's disease drug called IONIS-HTTRx. The drug works by reducing the levels of the protein created using instructions in the mutant Huntingtin gene, the sole cause of the disease. Many years of lab work, including Carroll's own, proves that reducing protein production using similar drugs has dramatic benefits in cell and animal models of HD.
The Carroll lab has a long-standing interest in understanding the consequences of silencing, or lowering, production of the Huntingtin gene as a way of slowing the progress of the disease. The normal role of the HD gene is not well understood, and Carroll's lab has generated a number of lab tools and techniques to investigate this important question. The financial support from Ionis will allow the Carroll lab to conduct additional, long-term, experiments that could provide novel insights into the normal role of this mysterious gene, and on the relationship between Huntingtin lowering and symptoms associated with Huntington's disease.
“We’re really excited about this support from Ionis, which will allow us to continue our investigations into the role of the HD gene in important ways. It also shows how committed Ionis are to the safe and careful development of Huntingtin-lowering therapies, and a great vote of confidence in our own work,” said Carroll.
Carroll has a unique interest in Huntington’s, as the disease is genetic and in 2003, not long after leaving the Army, he tested positive for the gene that causes Huntington’s – which means he is guaranteed to get it himself.
Shortly thereafter, he began an academic odyssey that would eventually take him to the University of British Columbia for his undergraduate degree and his doctorate and Harvard Medical school for his postdoctoral fellowship, focusing all his research along the way on the disease that in all likelihood one day will claim his life unless a cure can be found. He has been at Western since 2011.
“I hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” he said. “I act like it’s going to kill me, but I hope and believe that it won’t.”
For more information on the grants or Carroll’s research into Huntington’s disease, contact him at (360) 650-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.