Global Down Syndrome Foundation Announces $1M Awarded for Crnic Institute Research Grants and Three New Sie Center Clinics

Research focused on the immune system could explain increased risk of leukemia, autoimmune disorders, and cognitive impairment

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Governor Hickenlooper and Congressman Coffman celebrate with Global
for World Down Syndrome Day

Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome

DENVER, CO (March 18, 2016) – Global Down Syndrome Foundation kicked off the weekend of World Down Syndrome Day by announcing $1M in funding for eleven new studies at Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, and three new clinics at the Anna and John J. Sie Center for Down Syndrome inside Children’s Hospital Colorado.

“One cannot overemphasize the importance of the diversity in this research,” said Dr. Tom Blumenthal, Executive Director at the Crnic Institute. “The potential findings on the horizon from this research, made possible by funding from Global, may play a role in significant discoveries leading to an enhanced quality of life for those with Down syndrome that could possible benefit the typical population as well.”

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Global Board Member Ricki Rest, self-advocate Connor, President and CEO of Global Michelle Sie Whitten, self-advocate Brett, and Associate Director of the Crnic Institute Dr. Joaquin Espinosa at Global’s World Down Syndrome Day Celebration

The Global Down Syndrome Foundation raises funds for the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, the leader in Down syndrome research, to underwrite critical investigations benefiting people with Down syndrome. To date, Crnic Grand Challenge Grants have awarded $6.7 million in research grants to 33 investigators in 100 dedicated labs. Four of the 2016 grant recipients will focus on the immune system; increasing evidence suggests that malfunction of the immune system in people with Down syndrome may be linked to their higher risk for leukemia, autoimmune disorders, and cognitive impairment.


•  Brianne Bettcher, Ph.D.,
Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine on the Anschutz Medical Campus will investigate the correlation between biomarkers of inflammation, brain structure, and neuropsychological functioning in adults with Down syndrome with an emphasis on those with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

•  Steven Maier, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Neurosciences at the University of Colorado Boulder will test the impact of anti-inflammatory therapies on learning and behavior using a mouse model of Down syndrome.

•  Christopher Porter, M.D., Associate Professor of Hematology, Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and in the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Hospital Colorado will employ advanced technology to define, with unprecedented detail, the impact of trisomy 21 on the amount and function of the many types of immune cells in the human body.

•  Kelly Sullivan, Ph.D., Instructor in the Department of Pharmacology, University of Colorado School of Medicine on the Anschutz Medical Campus will focus on a specific group of proteins, known as Interferons, which play potent and widespread roles in the immune system. This research will define the impact of modulating Interferon activity on cells from individuals with trisomy 21.

Additional recipients include: 

  • Ganna Bilousova, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Dermatology, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Anschutz Medical Campus – Exploring Endothelial Progenitor Cell Defects in Down Syndrome
  • Kirk Hansen, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics – Metabolic Alterations of Trisome 21
  • Mike Klymkowsky, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado Boulder – Inductive signaling in human iPSC-derived euploid and trisomic 21 cerebral organoids
  • Changwei Liu, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics – Investigating the role of ubiquitin-proteasome system in Down Syndrome development
  • Chad Pearson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology – A new ciliary basis for understanding Down syndrome phenotypes
  • Rui Yi, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado Boulder – Investigate molecular mechanisms of miR-155 in leukemogenesis associated with Down syndrome
  • Will Old, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado Boulder – Effects of DYRK1A Overexpression on the Neuronal Signaling Landscape in Trisomy 21

A full list of current and previous grant recipients and descriptions of the research is available at globaldownsyndrome.org/crnicgrants.

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State Senator Mike Johnston goes over a bill with self-advocate Brianna as part of the tour of the Senate Chamber during Global’s World Down Syndrome Day celebration

“Global is incredibly proud to contribute to the Down syndrome community in both the areas of research and care. Crnic, the only academic home for research specific to Down syndrome, has already established a leadership role in Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s research and will continue in that role with this research,” said Michelle Sie Whitten, President and CEO of Global Down Syndrome Foundation. “The additional clinics at Sie Center will provide even more resources contributing to comprehensive care and support for patients and their families.”

The Anna and John J. Sie Center for Down Syndrome at Children’s Hospital Colorado, also funded by Global, has a roster of some of the most accomplished medical professionals in their field specializing in treating patients with Down syndrome. In an effort to provide patients with the best care available, the Sie Center will introduce three new clinics in 2016 including a telemedicine clinic, an infant clinic and an education clinic.

“The Sie center provides the best care available for children and adolescents with Down syndrome, all contained inside Children’s Hospital Colorado,” said Sie Center Medical Director Dr. Francis J. Hickey. “We strive to provide impactful strategies that our patients can draw on to continually improve their lives, even after their Center visit concludes. The education clinic will work with students, parents, and educators to ensure each student can be as successful in their education as possible.”

The education clinic is remarkable in that it is the first education clinic devoted to people with Down syndrome that has a full time education specialist. Alissa Beck, the new Education Specialist, is tasked with working with patients to improve education performance, self-esteem, and socialization skills to thereby improve quality of life. Children and young adults with Down syndrome benefit from inclusion, differentiation, support and compassion; the education clinic will emphasize these while working with schools to maximize the student’s academic experience and success.

Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition, affecting one out of every 691 live births in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because of the end of widespread institutionalization, better medical care, improved access to education and greater societal inclusion, people with Down syndrome are living longer and more productive lives, with the average life span increasing from 25 years in 1983 to 60 years today. To contribute to the Global Down Syndrome Foundation mission or learn more please visit GlobalDownSyndrome.org.

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About Global Down Syndrome Foundation
Global Down Syndrome Foundation is a public nonprofit dedicated to significantly improving the lives of people with Down syndrome through research, medical care, education and advocacy. Global supports two affiliates which together constitute the only academic home in the United States committed solely to research and medical care for people with Down syndrome – the Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome and the Sie Center for Down Syndrome. Global also publishes Down Syndrome World, a national award-winning quarterly magazine. For more information, visit www.globaldownsyndrome.org. Follow Global Down Syndrome Foundation on Facebook & Twitter @GDSFoundation.

About the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome
The Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome is the first medical and research institute with the mission to provide the best clinical care to people with Down syndrome, and to eradicate the medical and cognitive ill effects associated with the condition. Established in 2008, the Crnic Institute is a partnership between the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the University of Colorado Boulder, and Children’s Hospital Colorado. Headquartered on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, the Crnic Institute includes the Anna and John J. Sie Center for Down Syndrome at Children’s Hospital Colorado. It partners both locally and globally to provide life-changing research and medical care for individuals with Down syndrome. The Crnic Institute is made possible by the generous support of the Anna and John J. Sie Foundation, and relies on the Global Down Syndrome Foundation for fundraising, education, awareness, and government advocacy. It is a research and medical-based organization without political or religious affiliation or intention.

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MEDIA CONTACT:
Taylor Shields, Global Down Syndrome Foundation
303 468 4975
TShields@GlobalDownSyndrome.org

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