With a record-breaking 30 CMD-focused research grant proposals in his inbox, Scientific Director Dr. Gustavo Dziewczapolski is quite busy right now. However, we were fortunate to get some time with him to do a Q&A about this year’s grant call, which will award up to $50,000 in research funding for each of the 5 CMD subtypes: for Dystroglycanopathy, COL6, LAMA2, LMNA, and SELENON (SEPN1).
1. What was the specific grant call for CMD-focused researchers this year?
As all CMD subtypes have many unmet needs, we like to keep our grant call open to a broad range of researcher-initiated ideas, from understanding the disorder better, to developing or improving potential treatments, and exploring mechanisms to accelerate the most promising therapies from the lab to clinical trials. During the peer-review process and in final selection of awards, Cure CMD always seeks to prioritize those projects that best align with the patient-centered vision that leads everything we do.
2. What do you keep in mind when shaping the grant call?
In my view, the goal is only one and it’s huge: Find treatments and cures for all CMDs. New research results (data) illuminate previously unknown information, and often mandates that we let go and evolve the original hypothesis that was presented at the beginning of a research project or path. Technological advances give us tools to bypass some steps now and then. Our objective is to be open to a growing and adaptable research environment, so that we can capitalize on opportunities as they arise.
3. What's the most challenging thing about the process of reviewing research grant applications?
Sincerely and fortunately, the biggest challenge is that we have more great quality research proposals than we can fund. So, after selecting the one or two great projects for each subtype, we will reach out to our partner foundations to propose co-funding of additional proposals that we cannot fund on our own.
4. What gets you excited when you're reviewing the grants / what's your favorite part?
I get excited about the interest and passion that researchers show in crafting their proposals. It is also invigorating to see that many of the proposals incorporate state-of-the-art techniques for solving both old and new questions -- a sign that the field is active and evolving. And, it’s exciting to learn something new with each and every proposal.
What I most enjoy is collecting the opinions of our expert peer-reviewers, preparing questions and suggestions aimed to clarify and improve the proposals, and then analyzing the responses from applicants. This process, which potentiates and synergizes research ideas, is rewarding for me as a scientist—and fundamentally, it assures that we are moving in the most feasible and best data/hypothesis-driven direction.
5. What do you want the community to know about the process of granting funds to CMD researchers?
I want to extend our gratitude, and that of our researchers, for our community’s continued engagement and financial support, allowing Cure CMD to advance cutting-edge research. All of the projects we fund are carefully and selflessly evaluated by CMD experts, and the community’s fundraisers and contributions are used to fund research projects with the most promise to advance our mission.