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Community Foundation for Brevard Funds Medical Research at Florida Tech

$40K in Grants Will Support Studies
of Alzheimer’s Disease, Cancer

MELBOURNE, FLA. — The Community Foundation for Brevard awarded two Florida Institute of Technology researchers $20,000 grants under the Medical Research Grant to Find Cause and/or Cure for Alzheimer’s, Cancer, and Other Pervasive Diseases initiative. The competitive program is funded from the foundation’s Kenneth R. Finken and Dorothy Hallam Finken Endowment Fund.

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.

“We are excited to begin our drug screen and very grateful to the Community Foundation for Brevard and the Finken Endowment Fund for supporting our research,” Guisbert said.
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.

The grant to Xu 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 the cancer research being conducted by Guisbert, which is focused on a new approach for the development of a targeted anticancer therapeutic.

Guisbert’s research focuses on understanding 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 cancer including those of the breast, colon and lung.  Unfortunately, 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.

“Kenneth Finken retired from the Government Electronic Systems division of Harris Corporation, where he held four patents,” said Sandi Scannelli, president and CEO, Community Foundation for Brevard. “His wish was to leave a family legacy that would forever support cause-or-cure research for Alzheimer’s, cancer and other pervasive diseases. I believe he would be proud of our association with Florida Tech and the important research that is being supported by his legacy fund.”

This is the ninth award to Florida Tech from the Kenneth R. Finken and Dorothy Hallam Finken Endowment Fund for medical research.

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