PHILADELPHIA – Alice Chen-Plotkin, MD, NRSA Post-Doctorate Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research, has received a Career Award for Medical Scientists from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. Recently, she also received the 2008 Clinician-Scientist Development Fellowship award from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Foundation and The ALS Association.

Alice Chen-Plotkin

Alice Chen-Plotikin, MD

Dr. Chen-Plotkin, Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research directors Virginia M.-Y. Lee, PhD, MBA and John Q. Trojanowski, MD, PhD and colleagues are homing in on a protein called TDP-43, which is seen in people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and a type of dementia called frontotemporal dementia.

“The BWF and AAN awards will allow us to deepen our understanding of TDP-43, which we’ve already shown to be associated with neurodegenerative diseases including ALS and frontotemporal dementia,” says Chen-Plotkin. By better understanding TDP-43’s role in regulating gene expression and defining patterns of abnormal gene expression in people with ALS and frontotemporal dementia, researchers hope to trace causes and ultimately develop effective therapies to treat these devastating neurodegenerative diseases.

The BWF Career Award for Medical Scientists (CAMS) program provides $700,000 over five years to bridge advanced postdoctoral/fellowship training and the early years of faculty service. The award, which was given to 16 researchers out of 124 applicants, supports the last years of a mentored position as well as the beginning years of an independent position. Dr. Chen-Plotkin’s husband, Josh Plotkin, PhD, is a previous recipient of a separate award from BWF, the Career Award at the Scientific Interface (CASI), and is an Assistant Professor of Biology and Computer and Information Science in the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences.

The AAN Foundation/ALS Association Clinician Scientist Development Fellowship is part of The Association’s TREAT ALS™ program. The two-year, $160,000 fellowship was formally presented during the American Academy of Neurology's 60th Annual Meeting in Chicago, held April 12–19, 2008. Dr. Chen-Plotkin’s Department of Neurology colleague, William Hu, MD, PhD, received a 2008 Clinical Research Training Fellowship to research whether the amount of TDP-43 in cerebral spinal fluid may correlate to and possible predict specific degenerative conditions.

Chen-Plotkin received her MD from Harvard University in 2003, a master's degree in biological sciences from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes scholar, and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University with B.A. in English. She completed her neurology residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital before coming to Penn in late 2007. In addition to her research, she continues to see patients at the Penn Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center.

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