Daniel P. Judge, an assistant professor of
the School of Medicine, recently won a
competitive Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award
to support work he hopes will decrease
the incidence of sudden cardiac death in youngsters. The
Hartwell Foundation award provides
$300,000 in direct costs over three years.
As many as 150 apparently healthy young people in the
United States die suddenly every year
from cardiac arrest, leaving families and entire
communities devastated. The cause in the majority of
cases, particularly among athletes, is arrhythmogenic right
ventricular dysplasia, an inherited
structural deficiency of the heart that results in failure
to adequately pump blood.
"Tragically, the first manifestation of ARVD often is
sudden death," said Judge, who aims to
identify and alter the sequence of events leading up to
ARVD using a novel strain of mice he is
developing. This work will contribute to the identification
of new therapies to delay — or even prevent —
the onset of the disease.
"Children with ARVD basically have only one treatment
option, and that is electric shock when
their heartbeat rhythm is disturbed," Judge said. "My
research, if successful, will benefit children
with existing ARVD and importantly, children with a genetic
predisposition to this condition who have
not yet shown any symptoms."
The Hartwell Foundation funds early-stage, innovative
and cutting-edge biomedical research
that will benefit U.S. children and has not yet qualified
for significant funding from outside sources.
Foundation president Frederick Dombrose said, "Dr.
Judge will exploit insights gained in his
mouse model of ARVD as a guide to treatment and
intervention, and possibly even prevention. We
understand that his research plan is not a sure thing. But
if he's successful, it will make a tremendous
difference for young people with ARVD."
Said Judge, "The Hartwell funding couldn't have come
at a better time for me, at a time when
the rate of NIH funding is decreasing." He is one of eight
members of the Johns Hopkins
Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia Program, the
largest center for the study of ARVD in the
The Hartwell Foundation, for the third consecutive
year, has invited Johns Hopkins to nominate
four individuals for the annual Hartwell Individual
Biomedical Research Award competition (see below),
which is open to institutions named to the foundation's
list of Top 10 Centers of Biomedical Research.
The first Hartwell Research Award recipient at Johns
Hopkins, Ken M. Brady, assistant professor in
Pediatric Anesthesiology at the School of Medicine, is
working to improve treatment of brain trauma
Dombrose called the research proposals from Brady and
Judge "very compelling." He said, "In
both cases, it was easy to see how their individual success
could translate to helping kids."
All institutions that fully participate in the
Research Awards competition also receive $100,000
in direct costs over two years for a Hartwell Fellowship to
be awarded to a postdoctoral candidate of
their choice, to support further specialized training.
Adam Gower, a Hartwell Fellow, who
is studying the molecular basis of pediatric interstitial
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS
In 2007, Johns Hopkins selected Adam Gower, a fellow
in the Eudowood Division of Pediatric
Respiratory Sciences, as the Hartwell Fellow.
Gower is studying the molecular basis of pediatric
interstitial lung disease, a mixed group of
disorders that can lead to scarring and destruction of lung
tissue. Their causes are not well
understood, and patients with pediatric ILD can be quite
difficult to diagnose. Often a major
operation is needed to obtain and examine a piece of the
patient's lung in order to make the diagnosis,
and there are few effective therapies.
Gower's work has the potential to provide a rapid,
noninvasive means of specific diagnosis, as
well as to predict whether other family members of affected
children are at risk for developing lung
"The Hartwell Fellowship is a huge boost to me at this
early, yet important, stage in my career,"
He is using the funds to characterize and categorize
genetic variants that occur in patients
with interstitial lung disease. He said he hopes that his
work ultimately will provide patients and their
families more accurate information about prognosis and
potential new treatments.
Gower's mentor, pediatrics professor Lawrence Nogee,
said, "Adam is tackling an important
question, as his work has real potential for developing
sorely needed diagnostic tests and novel
treatments for the group of disorders he is studying."
Judge's and Gower's work, Dombrose said, is the type
of research the Hartwell Foundation
strives to support. "We seek to inspire innovation and
achievement by providing an opportunity for
those we support to make a difference," he said.