If you’ve seen The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, or the 1996 flop Jack, starring Robin Williams, then you have some idea of what progeria is. It’s an incredibly rare genetic disease caused by a chance mutation—meaning it’s usually not inherited—in which the sufferer ages extremely rapidly, from birth to “old age” by their mid-teens. Most of those born with progeria pass away in their late teens or early twenties, due to complications from atherosclerosis, such as heart attack or stroke.
There are only 100 known cases in existence today, and another 140 in medical literature that stretches back to 1886, when it was first described by Jonathan Hutchinson. So like most rare disorders, it doesn’t have well-funded teams of researchers working on a cure. It isn’t breast cancer. It isn’t ALS. It’s present in approximately one in four million births. That’s not just rare, that’s really, really rare. Fortunately, this disease has its own research foundation, called the Progeria Research Foundation, and it's inviting applications for awards in three categories. Up to $300,000 over three years is at stake.
PRF’s Innovator Award program invites applications from investigators who aren’t yet eligible to receive NIH funding. It's seeking preliminary data and doing the kind of up-and-coming work that may yield new insights in the future. The Innovator Awards offer up to $150,000 over two years.
The Established Investigator Awards are for those investigators senior enough to be established in the field of progeria. Investigators in outside fields who are applying their work to progeria are also invited to apply. This award offers up to $300,000 over three years.
The Specialty Awards program offers up to $50,000 for a flexible amount of time. The Specialty Awards cover researchers looking at smaller, more technology-driven projects, including sequencing, screening potential drugs, obtaining cell lines (including IPSCs,) and preparation of antibodies.
Check out the full RFP for more information.