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Community Foundation for Brevard Funds Medical Research at Florida Tech

$66K in Grants Supports Ongoing
Studies of Alzheimer’s, Cancer

MELBOURNE, FLA. — The Community Foundation for Brevard awarded two Florida Institute of Technology researchers $33,000 grants under the initiative Medical Research Grant to Find Cause and/or Cure for Alzheimer’s, Cancer, and Other Pervasive Diseases. The competitive program is funded from the Kenneth R. Finken and Dorothy Hallam Finken Endowment Fund at the Community Foundation for Brevard.

One grant will assist Shaohua Xu, associate professor of biological sciences, in his work on the mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s disease. The other will support Eric Guisbert, assistant professor of biological sciences, in his efforts to understand the roles of heat shock proteins in cancer.

More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, according to The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. Xu’s work on the identification of destructive gels formed by amyloid fibers in brain cells has introduced a new understanding of the disease and a new target to attack.

In Alzheimer’s victims, normal protein molecules called “tau” abnormally join to form tangled fibers. The fibers and the gel they produce accumulate until essential substances cannot move normally through cells of the affected brain. As brain cells subsequently die, memory and mental functioning deteriorate.

Xu’s grant will support his lab’s testing of drugs that may be able to halt the gel formation process and lead to a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

Equally significant is Guisbert’s research involving cancer, which will afflict more than one out of every three people during their lifetimes.

Guisbert’s research is focused on a new approach for the development of a targeted anticancer therapeutic and investigating the cancer role of the protein HSF1, a key component of cells’ responses to stress. This component of a cellular “heat shock” response has been known for more than 50 years, and has been implicated in several forms of the disease, including breast cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer. But it is still very poorly understood. Guisbert is working to define the role of HSF1 in cancer with the goal of producing new and more effective anti-cancer treatments.

“The Community Foundation for Brevard is proud of its association with Florida Tech and to be stewards of the Finken family legacy and their support for cause and cure research,” said Theresa Grimison, president and CEO of the Foundation.

Kenneth Finken was a graduate of Columbia University and held four patents. He retired from the Government Electronic Systems division of Harris Corporation.

This is the 10th award to Florida Tech from the Kenneth R. Finken and Dorothy Hallam Finken Endowment Fund for medical research with a combined value of nearly $430,000.

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