Sullivan Receives 2013 March of Dimes Research Grant

June 19, 2013 

Durham, NC — Beth Sullivan, PhD, Associate Professor in the Duke Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and Co-Director of the University Program in Genetics and Genomics, has received a competitive 2013 March of Dimes (MOD) Research Grant. The award will support reagent, supplies, and staff costs for the next three years.

This is the fourth time in a decade that Sullivan has received March of Dimes support. She was the recipient of a Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Award in 2004, a prestigious two-year award that funded her research during the establishment of her laboratory. Subsequent MOD Research Grants, awarded in 2006 and 2010, supported the lab’s goal to pioneer strategies to experimentally produce human chromosomal rearrangements – specifically dicentric chromosomes (those with two centromere regions). Dicentric chromosomes are genome rearrangements associated with birth defects such as Down Syndrome and reproductive defects, including miscarriage and infertility. The long-term goal of Sullivan’s research is to define the molecular basis for dicentric formation and the poorly understood mechanism of centromere inactivation or suppression that stabilizes dicentric chromosomes so they are tolerated in human cells. The current March of Dimes project will focus on human chromosome 17–present in every human being–and the molecular basis for its dicentric-like behavior that her lab recently discovered.

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The March of Dimes is a U.S. non-profit foundation whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. Established in 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the National Foundation for Infant Paralysis and later renamed the March of Dimes Foundation, its original mission was to fight polio. It funded research for vaccines developed by Dr. Jonas Salk and Dr. Albert Sabin that effectively ended the polio epidemic in the U.S. With the accomplishment of its original mission, the foundation turned its focus to preventing birth defects and infant mortality. The March of Dimes has led the way to discover genetic causes of birth defects, to promote newborn screening, and to educate medical professionals and the public about best practices for healthy pregnancy. Research breakthroughs have helped save thousands of babies.