Paul Jenkins, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, has been awarded a pilot grant from the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI): "Pilot awards support novel, high-risk and exploratory projects that have the potential to yield transformative results in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) research. The grants awarded in this cycle aim to advance knowledge of the molecular, cellular and circuit-levels mechanisms affected in the autism brain and promote the development of new gene-editing and antisense oligonucleotide therapies. These studies will employ diverse experimental approaches spanning from genetic analyses through animal models and in vitro (e.g., brain organoids) systems to neuroimaging."
SFARI intends to provide more than $3.3 million over the next two years to support the 12 investigators leading these projects. Dr. Jenkins is one of the 12. His project is titled Investigating a novel link between ANK2 and SCN2A.
"Thanks to the Simons Simplex Collection, the scientific community possesses dozens of highly reliable risk genes through the identification of rare de novo variants in patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)," says Dr. Jenkins. "What is currently missing is a mechanism linking these genes into a convergent pathway that gives insight into the underlying cause of disease. In this project, my laboratory will test the hypothesis that ANK2 and SCN2A, two of the top genes implicated in ASD, are linked at the molecular level to control dendritic excitability and, ultimately, brain activity."