The Hartwell Foundation honors two scientists

By Jan Jarvis

Dr. Shaul in lab
Dr. Philip Shaul

The Hartwell Foundation has awarded Dr. Philip W. Shaul, Professor of Pediatrics, a Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award to investigate ways to improve the outcomes for women and infants affected by the autoimmune disorder antiphospholipid syndrome.

The award, which provides $100,000 annually over three years, was one of 12 issued by the Foundation that funds early-stage, innovative biomedical research to benefit U.S. children.

“Dr. Shaul will test an innovative approach to treating antiphospholipid syndrome, a disease that can cause disability, serious illness, and even death in a pregnant woman or her unborn child,” said Dr. Fred Dombrose, President of The Harwell Foundation.

Pregnant women with this condition typically are given drugs to stop blood clots from forming in the placenta, but the risk of complications is high with this treatment. In addition, the treatment is not very effective, Dr. Shaul said.

“We are testing a new idea that has nothing to do with blood clotting,” Dr. Shaul said. “We want to block the disease-causing antibodies with an artificially designed antibody that will protect the target cells, like fighting fire with fire.”

A better understanding of how the disease develops in pregnancy may lead to new treatments, he said.

The Hartwell Foundation provides financial support for cutting-edge research that has not yet qualified for funding from traditional sources. Annually, it selects participating centers of biomedical research to nominate four researchers for Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Awards. UT Southwestern has been selected as a Hartwell Top Ten Center since 2006.

Dr. McCombs in library
Dr. Janet McCombs

Separately, the Foundation also awarded Dr. Janet McCombs, a postdoctoral researcher in Biochemistry, a Hartwell Fellowship. The fellowship provides postdoctoral support for two years at $50,000 annually for early-career scientists and biomedical engineers. The fellowship will allow Dr. McCombs to continue studying the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, which can cause ear infections, meningitis, and other illnesses in children.

“I hope to get a better understanding of how this bacteria infects an individual and causes disease,” Dr. McCombs said. “Perhaps we’ll find more targets for a therapeutic vaccine.”

Dr. Shaul holds the Associates First Capital Corporation Distinguished Chair in Pediatrics.

 

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