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Director of Gene Therapy Center

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Senator Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Cooperative Research Center


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The NIH Senator Paul B. Wellstone Centers are the centerpiece of the nation's effort to reduce morbidity and mortality from muscular disorders and are a major source of discovery and development of more effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis, and therapy. The University of North Carolina (UNC) "goal" of establishing a premier Wellstone Center in the state of North Carolina has assembled a highly interactive research group creating a dynamic program comprised of experienced clinical investigators (Drs. Powers & Wolff), expert basic laboratories (Drs. Samulski, Xiao, and Beecham), and large animal models (Dr. Kornegay) focused on developing, testing, and establishing therapeutic treatments for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) and other genetic muscle disorders. A major theme of the Center is to advance novel gene based therapies into the clinic for muscle disorders. The impetus for this effort stems from the fact that UNC Gene Therapy Center (GTC) has made significant strides in recent years to build the foundation that will enable development of a full-scale bench-to-bedside effort bringing gene therapy for DMD closer to a reality (e.g. GMP vector production facility, DMD dog model core). In the spirit of this mission, UNC with support from MDA has independently initiated the first gene-based therapy for DMD using a newly engineered AAV vector (Dr. Samulski) and a mini-dystrophin (dys) gene (Dr. Xiao). A common theme emerging from our Phase I studies and a primary focus of the proposal, relates to establishing a clear understanding of safety and efficacy after treatment with gene based therapeutics and advancing these efforts into selected human clinical trials that will show potential for treatment. Continued discussion with FDA for most efficient and prudent manner to advance our gene therapy based efforts to DMD patients with minimum risk and maximum benefit has lead to the proposed MDCRC Wellstone Center application. The MDCRC will consist of 3 projects (Project 1 PI- Dr. Powers coPI Dr. Wolff -, Project 2 PI-Dr. Xiao, Project 3 PI- Dr. Samulski, (Projects 1-3) and four cores: an Administrative core (PI-Dr. Jude Samulski, Co-PI-Dr. Powers) Training Core, Vector Core (PI Dr. Jeffrey Beecham) and Large animal core (PI- Dr. Kornegay).


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