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Scientific Conferences

International Ataxia Research Conference

2017 IARC LogoFARA has organized and supported a number of scientific conferences to keep the field informed of research progress and build collaborations and synergistic connections between FA researchers. FARA’s International Scientific Conference on Friedreich’s Ataxia has grown over its three iterations demonstrating the remarkable research advances into the underlying mechanisms of FA, and increased interest within the scientific research community.


Scientific Conference Program

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JOIN AN UPCOMING LIVE WEBINAR on April 4th or April 11th

The Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA), in partnership with the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the National Ataxia Foundation, will be hosting two live webinars in April to discuss how FA patients and caregivers can participate in the very important, upcoming Patient Focused Drug Development meeting with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in June.

Please join us for one of the two live webinars (click "Read More" below) to view key information, including background information about the FDA & drug development, an overview of FDA Patient-Focused Drug Development, discussion questions & format, tips for participating in the meeting, and meeting logistics.

Webinar Dates, Times and How to Connect

Tuesday, April 4, 2017
12:00pm EST; 9:00am PT (1 hour)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017
8:00pm EST; 5:00pm PT (1 hour)

Both webinars will cover the same material. To dial in, click on the appropriate link above and follow the instructions (hit the “More information” button for the meeting # & audio #). Plan to dial in five minutes early if you have never used WebEx (meeting software), as you may need to download software before joining. Participation in each webinar is limited to the first 100 people who join. The webinars will be recorded and can be viewed later for those who cannot participate live.

Our goal is to have as many patients and caregivers as possible participate in the Patient Focused Drug Development meeting (either in person or via live webcast). This meeting is your opportunity to tell FDA and drug developers about the challenges and burdens you have experienced with FA, and to share your thoughts about what is most important to you in evaluating potential new treatments for the disease. This meeting marks the first-time patients and their families affected by FA, and other caregivers, will be able to speak directly to the FDA and share their experiences in their own words.

Should I participate in a webinar if I cannot attend the FDA meeting in person?

YES! Please join us for one of the upcoming webinars to learn about the FDA meeting because even if you cannot attend in-person, we would like you to participate online via a live webcast. You will be able to actively contribute to the meeting and share your input on the specific panel questions, as well as demographic questions with the use of your mobile device (via texting) or via a web page.

FDA Meeting Date & Location

Meeting location: College Park Marriott and Conference Center, Hyattsville, MD
Date & Time: June 2, 2017, 8:00am - 12:30pm

* Following the FDA meeting, there will be a research update for anyone who is interested (1:30-3:00 pm)

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The 2nd International Ataxia Research Conference will be held on September 27-30, 2017 in Pisa, Italy.

Note - the deadline for abstract submission has been postponed to 3 April 2017

The focus of the meeting is a comprehensive scientific review of new research from disease definition to therapeutic treatments. The conference will include Friedreich’s ataxia and other recessive ataxias (eg: ataxia with oculomotor apraxia), dominant ataxias (eg: spinocerebellar ataxias, DRPLA, episodic ataxias) and autoimmune ataxias.

On the day following FARA’s incorporation, the new organization submitted a grant application to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the first International Scientific Conference on Friedreich’s Ataxia convened April 1999.

2015 - International Ataxia Research Conference
300+ scientists/ participants, 15 pharmarceutical companies and 7 advocacy groups.  The conference was held in Windsor, England.
2015 Conference Photos and Thanks to Partners and Sponsors

2011 - 4th FARA International Scientific Conference (3 days)
200 scientists/participants from 15 countries, 7 pharmaceutical companies and 9 advocacy groups The conference was held in Strasbourg, France.
2011 Conference Photos and Thanks to Partners and Sponsors
2006 - 3rd FARA International Conference (3 days)
150 scientists from 12 countries,
6 pharmaceutical companies and 6 advocacy groups
2003 - 2nd FARA International Conference (5 days)
100 scientists from 12 countries,
4 pharmaceutical companies and 4 advocacy groups
1999 - 1st FARA International Conference (3 days)
80 scientists from around the world,
zero pharmaceutical companies and one advocacy group

Research Abstracts from meetings can be found in the right hand column.

In the interim time between its International Conferences on Friedreich’s Ataxia, FARA helped support the Ataxia Investigators Meeting held in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014.

FARA has also convened summit meetings to focus on significant areas of FA research such as cardiology and mitochondrial function. Such meetings facilitate in-depth discussions among experts and advance a specific research need.


In 2014, FARA partnered with the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS, part of the National Institutes of Health) to organize a meeting to determine what studies should be done to develop high quality biomarkers for FA. Approximately 50 people attended the meeting, including experts in FA, experts in biomarker development and companies with an interest in developing therapies for FA. The meeting was set up to encourage discussion, and there was lively debate between the participants. Many possibilities were suggested — some which had never been considered in FA previously, others where significant data exist ed. Discussion ranged from biochemistry to electrophysiology to imaging studies to gait analysis, while always remaining focused on what could be measured in important tissues to FA, and what those measurements would mean. Experts from outside of the FA world suggested technologies not previously studied in FA, while FA experts compared and contrasted with known FA data to determine which would have the highest probability of success.

The meeting has provided FARA with a priority list of potential biomarkers that might be relevant to FA. We now need to start both pilot studies to see if biomarkers not previously considered in FA might be feasible, and longer-term studies to see how markers with some evidence might change over time in patients.  FARA will partner with companies working in these areas to fund and run these studies, and the resulting data will be available to everyone in the community. Development and validation of biomarkers should both accelerate progress in developing new therapies, and make the field even more attractive to drug developers.

Mouse Models

In 2012 and 2013, meetings organized by FARA brought FA scientists from around the world who are working on mouse models, induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS) models of FA, and gene therapy approaches. Researchers presented their latest data (not yet published or publically available) to help address gaps in the current models and share new discoveries and technologies. Cat Lutz from JAX labs reported on a significant breakthrough in a collaborative project, funded by FARA, to produce extensive characterization of several different FA mouse models. Several other investigators reported on ongoing efforts to continue to improve upon models. For example, the current mouse models are still relatively mild compared to humans (symptoms are mild and slow to appear) – if newer models had lower levels of frataxin or more cardiac symptoms, and showed symptoms earlier in life, our ability to screen drug candidates would be enhanced.   As a result of these meetings, a Mouse Model Task Force was formed that meets regularly to advance this initiative.

Cellular Models

The availability of well-characterized cellular models is highly beneficial for drug discovery and testing, as well as for developing gene and stem cell therapies. To facilitate communication, cooperation, and collaboration among researchers various types of cellular models, especially iPS-based neuronal and cardiac models, the Cellular Models and Cell Therapy meeting was held in Chicago in March, 2010. One of the key outcomes of the meeting was consensus on the need for reproducible, stable, well-characterized FA iPS cell lines that are appropriate for research (including drug screening), maintained in a reputable facility, and distributed among researchers.

Therapeutics Symposium

More than 100 FA researchers and our advocacy partners from around the world gathered July 15-17, 2009 for the FA Therapeutics Symposium in Philadelphia, PA. Presentations and discussions highlighted:

·         progress in the development of previously identified therapeutic candidates, such as HDACI and TAT-Frataxin results from clinical trials including the Phase I study of A0001 and Phase III of Idebenone

·         recent discoveries that point to new therapies

·         advancements in new cell models and drug discovery and development assays

·         clinical research including biomarker studies and new clinical outcome measures

Mitochondrial Summit

FARA co-sponsored a Mitochondrial Summit with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, on May 20-21, 2008, to share and discuss approaches, insights, and mechanisms that suggest new therapeutics for mitochondrial neurodegenerative diseases.

Cardiac Summits

In 2007, a Cardiac Summit was convened of leading cardiologists and researchers gathered to discuss FA related cardiology issues. One of the primary outcomes of this meeting was the documentation of gaps in knowledge regarding cardiac disease in FA and the assignment of research teams to begin work in these areas. To further support these efforts, FARA and the American Heart Association formed a new partnership to co-fund grants. Proceedings of this meeting can be found here

In a continued effort to bring more research and attention to cardiac involvement in FA, the 2nd FA Cardiac Summit was held on June 11, 2010. Twenty participants were invited, representing diverse areas of basic science, clinical research, and cardiology. One of the goals of the meeting was to identify clinical and basic science questions that are important to solve to better understand cardiac disease in FA, such as establishing hypotheses and explanations for how mitochondrial dysfunction in FA might lead to cardiac disease in FA. One outcome of the meeting was overwhelming consensus and support for achieving improvements in cardiac care for individuals with FA. This will be done through the development of standards of care and further development of the cardiac expertise at our Collaborative Clinical Research Network in FA sites and beyond.


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Conference History

  • 2015 - International Ataxia Research Conference

    300+ Scientists/ Participants
    15 Pharmaceutical Companies
    7 Advocacy Groups

    2015 Research Abstracts

  • 2011 - 4th FARA International Scientific Conference

    200 Scientists
    7 Pharmaceutical Companies
    9 Advocacy Groups

    2011 Research Abstracts

  • 2006 - 3rd FARA International Conference

    150 Scientists
    6 Pharmaceutical Companies
    6 Advocacy Groups

    2006 Research Abstracts

  • 2003 - 2nd FARA International Conference

    100 Scientists
    4 Pharmaceutical Companies
    4 Advocacy Groups

    2003 Research Abstracts

  • 1999 - 1st FARA International Conference

    80 Scientists
    0 Pharmaceutical Companies
    1 Advocacy group

    1999 Research Abstracts