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University of Utah Neurologist Receives Inaugural Award for Work in Spinal Muscular Atrophy

St. Paul, Minn. – Kathryn J. Swoboda, MD, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, has been selected to receive one of the first Young Investigator Awards in Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). The Young Investigator Awards support researchers working in a mentored environment toward the cause, treatment or cure of SMA, the leading genetic killer of infants and toddlers. The award will provide Swoboda with $85,000 each year for three years, plus an allowance for tuition and research expenses. In a novel approach, the award also provides support for Swoboda’s mentor, Mark Bromberg, MD, PhD. Bromberg, a noted neuroscientist, will support Swoboda’s research by providing advice and guidance. “I am delighted and privileged to be selected as an SMA Young Investigator,” said Swoboda. “It provides the unique opportunity for me to obtain additional skills in clinical trials research to help bring exciting new developments occurring at the basic science level to children with SMA.” SMA is a progressive, debilitating and potentially fatal disease of the motor neurons caused by the absence of the survival motor neuron gene, or SMN1. SMA occurs in one in every 6,000 live births. Swoboda’s research will continue evaluating methods to estimate how many nerves are going to a specific muscle and how well those nerves are working; measure lean body mass to help assess muscle mass; assess motor and breathing function; and measure levels of the deficient protein and genetic message. “Our work is dedicated to the development of outcome measures that can be effectively and compassionately used in infants and young children with SMA,” said Swoboda. “We hope to efficiently and reliably detect a potential benefit of a new therapeutic application at a time when such children will be most likely to benefit.” Swoboda will be honored during the American Academy of Neurology 56th Annual Meeting in San Francisco, Calif., held April 24 – May 1, 2004. Co-sponsored by the American Academy of Neurology Foundation, the Young Investigator Award is funded by a grant from the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Foundation. The American Academy of Neurology Foundation works with the American Academy of Neurology to promote research in the neurosciences and to advance public understanding of the disorders of the brain and nervous system. For more information, visit its Web site at The SMA Foundation works to accelerate progress toward a treatment or cure for SMA. It has pledged to invest at least $15 million dollars in research over the next three to five years, through the support of programs such as this Young Investigator Award. In addition, the Foundation is actively working to raise awareness about SMA among industry and government leaders. To learn more about SMA Foundation activities, visit the Web site at

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 27,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube.

Editor's Notes:Cynthia Joyce can be contacted at the SMA Foundation at (646) 253-7100 or

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