WWU’s Jeff Carroll Secures New Research Funding Stream from the CHDI Foundation

by John Thompson, Office of Communications and Marketing

Western Washington University Associate Professor of Psychology Jeff Carroll has secured a new funding stream from the CHDI Foundation to assist in his continuing research into the causes and potential treatments for Huntington’s disease, a fatal genetic degenerative brain disorder.

Unlike typical grant-based funding, the collaboration between the Carroll Lab and CHDI (a nonprofit focused solely on developing treatments for Huntington’s disease) will be overseen by a joint steering committee which, along with Carroll, will identify research goals and objectives for the lab. Carroll and the steering committee will meet quarterly to review progress on past goals and develop new ones, and the funding, which is open-ended with no preset amount but which Carroll said will begin at about $800,000 per year, will follow based on the lab’s work towards the agreed-upon research objectives.

“This is new for us, and very exciting,’ Carroll said. “It’s entrepreneurial and a great example of how a public/private partnership can work.”

The new funding stream will allow for some upgrades to the Carroll Lab: He will be able to hire another postdoctoral fellow, which brings the number of full-time researchers in the lab to four, as well as provide access to cutting-edge new equipment including a cell sorter and single-cell dispenser. These tools will allow the Carroll Lab to conduct cutting-edge single cell techniques, which are rapidly transforming biological sciences.

This new level of automation will free up folks in the lab to do much more sophisticated work, as well as open opportunities for undergraduate researchers at Western.

“This new level of automation will free up folks in the lab to do much more sophisticated work, as well as open opportunities for undergraduate researchers at Western,” he said.

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. 

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 jeff.carroll@wwu.edu.

Thursday, September 27, 2018 - 9:11am