accelerators project donors helped our community make history after the Big Pitch event at Mitochondrial Medicine 2019.
The excitement began when three post-doctoral finalists gave their Big Pitch presentations, describing their unique projects that power innovative research towards a cure for mitochondrial disease. Each had five minutes to describe their project during a live webcast. Our three finalists had an opportunity to explain to our accelerators why their project was important to patients and families and why they should be chosen to win the $50,000 accelerators Prize.
When the online voting concluded, Dr. Arwen Gao of Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Lausanne Switzerland was selected as the 2019 accelerators $50,000 prize winner. Dr. Gao’s project identified novel compounds that increase the amount of mitochondria and/or activate the identified pathway in lab-based cell models. The compounds that work best in the cell models will be subsequently tested in animal models of mitochondrial disease. Future work with top compound candidates have the potential to pave the way towards the development of novel drugs targeting rare mitochondrial diseases.
But then, something amazing happened. Before Dr. Gao was announced as the winner, two accelerators donor families said they were incredibly inspired by all of the presentations and wanted to see all of their projects continue for the entire patient community. The Wright Family Foundation and the Breslow Family each committed $50,000 to fund the projects of the runners up, Dr. Rachel Guerra of the Morgridge Institute for Research in Madison, WI, and Dr. Zachary Wilson, University of Utah at Salt Lake City. The support from the two additional family funds was announced at the start of the UMDF Evening of Energy Banquet at Mitochondrial Medicine 2019. Those attending the banquet were so excited with the news they gave a standing ovation.