FOP Research Development and Partnerships Director, Adam Sherman, shares highlights of his recent travels to labs conducting FOP research across New England.
By Adam Sherman
The IFOPA has a unique role to play in the FOP research community. Beyond our Competitive Research Grant Program, operating the FOP Connection Registry, and running the Drug Development Forum, we look to foster existing relationships and build new ones within the FOP research community. It’s through the power of excellent collaboration and partnerships that research advances and innovative treatments get discovered.
So, when I started in March of this year, Betsy Bogard (the previous IFOPA Research Director) took me on a FOP research “tour” to meet many of the academic researchers, as well as drug developers, working on treatments for FOP in the Northeast. Fortunately, since we both live in Boston, Mass., our first tour was a carpool around New England, instead of taking a broken down tour bus.
First stop on the 2017 FOP Tour was with Dr. David Goldhamer at the University of Connecticut. Dr. Goldhamer runs a research lab at UCONN that focuses on the regeneration and repair of the musculoskeletal system. Although Dr. Goldhamer’s lab studies other degenerative diseases, a significant portion of their effort is focused on FOP.
When Betsy and I arrived at the university, we were greeted by Dr. Goldhamer and six researchers all studying FOP. It was quickly evident that there was this wave of passion and excitement within the UCONN team. During our meeting, each researcher highlighted what they were working on and was eager to discuss their latest discoveries (and theories). Through the use of their cell-based FOP models, Dr. Goldhamer and his team of experts are uncovering many mysteries behind FOP. Betsy and I left feeling very inspired by this passionate group of FOP researchers.
Next stop on the FOP Tour was Dr. Paul Yu’s lab at Harvard University. Betsy and I met Dr. Yu at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, which is right in my own backyard (but that didn’t stop me from getting lost!). We met with Dr. Yu and several of his researchers who are studying cell signaling and bone formation in FOP. Dr. Yu is the recipient of two IFOPA Competitive Research Grants. One grant funds research into the role of exercise on FOP and the other grant is helping to investigate an experimental therapy and its ability to stop bone formation following surgery. It was a great opportunity to learn more about these studies as well as to hear additional ideas that Dr. Yu had regarding FOP. It was certainly an energizing visit, knowing that such highly knowledgeable and dedicated researchers are focused on fighting FOP.
Finally, I had the opportunity to visit Dr. Pam Yelick's lab at Tufts University. Dr. Yelick has successfully developed an FOP zebrafish model, which has spurred interest from other FOP researchers around the world. There are several advantages of using zebrafish to study FOP. Zebrafish have hundreds of offspring, which grow and develop very quickly, so there is the ability to rapidly build hundreds of “models” to test many potential treatments for FOP. Dr. Yelick is collaborating with several other labs to unlock FOP’s mysteries and to find new treatments.
My tour continues this summer and fall. Michelle Davis, IFOPA Executive Director, and I just finished a trip to the University of Pennsylvania in August. Watch for an upcoming article about our visit with Drs. Fred Kaplan and Eileen Shore.
Additionally, we are actively planning the 2017 Drug Development Forum (DDF) meeting later this year. This meeting attracts researchers, investigators, pharmaceutical companies and clinicians in FOP from around the world. This year we are expecting over 30 academic institutions from across the globe to participate in the Forum!
As I reflect on these visits, as well as my interactions with other FOP researchers, I feel optimistic knowing that we have such a passionate, dedicated and collaborative team working together toward treatments for FOP.