Dr. Lauren Laboissonniere is awarded the Milton Safenowitz Postdoctoral Fellowship from The ALS Association

Published: November 10th, 2020

Category: Feature

Lauren Laboissonniere, PhD

Dr. Lauren Laboissonniere, who is currently doing her post-doctoral training in the lab of Dr. Laura Ranum here at the Center for NeuroGenetics, has been awarded the prestigious Milton Safenowitz Postdoctoral Fellowship from The ALS Association.

Dr. Laboissonniere completed her PhD at Iowa State University with Dr. Jeffrey Trimarchi where she utilized manual single cell isolation and transcriptomics for the exploration of genetic factors relevant to the development of distinct populations of neurons in the vertebrate retina. Dr. Laboissonniere published multiple first-author and co-author manuscripts in this field. She also utilized various genome editing tools, including CRISPR/Cas9 for the study of ALS-related gene function. Following her graduation in the spring of 2018, Dr. Laboissonniere joined the Ranum lab and began her research into immunotherapies for the treatment of C9 ALS/FTD.

The postdoctoral fellowship, founded by the Safenowitz family in memory of Milton Safenowitz, who died of ALS in 1998, was created to encourage promising young scientists to enter the ALS field and support their research. This award secures $100,000 to the fellow over a two-year period to facilitate the study of ALS. Dr. Laboissonniere was one of 6 fellows to receive this honor in 2019. More than 75% of fellows continue to study ALS and often go on to establish their own laboratories in the future.

The goal of Dr. Laboissonniere’s research proposal, Development of novel therapeutics for the treatment of C9 ALS/FTD, is to investigate the efficacy of a vaccine therapy in the C9-500 BAC mouse model. Repeat-associated non-AUG (RAN) proteins are formed and accumulate in C9 patients. The targeting and clearing of these toxic proteins greatly ameliorates disease in the C9-500 mouse, thus demonstrating valuable potential as a therapeutic target. The vaccine therapy which Dr. Laboissonniere is investigating will prime the host’s immune system to produce endogenous antibodies against the toxic RAN proteins produced in disease, therefore providing a safer and more targeted approach at treatment. The identification of an efficacious vaccine therapy for C9-ALS will provide an important therapeutic strategy for individuals affected by ALS/FTD.