Alyssa Zinar, Uplifting Athletes
(610) 506-2533
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Felicia DeRosa, FARA
(484) 879 6160
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Weill Cornell Medical College’s Dr. Anna Stepanova
Presented with $20,000 Research Grant from Uplifting Athletes

Dr. Stepanova is among 10 rare disease researchers to be awarded a grant at Uplifting Athletes’ Sixth Annual Young Investigator Draft presented by CSL Behring on Feb. 4 at Lincoln Financial Field

DOWNINGTOWN, PA (January 10, 2023)Uplifting Athletes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the rare disease community, has announced that Dr. Anna Stepanova, Weill Cornell Medical College, will receive a $20,000 research grant as a member of Uplifting Athletes’ 2023 Young Investigator Draft Class.

Dr. Stepanova is among a group of 10 researchers who will each receive an unrestricted grant for medical research at Uplifting Athletes’ sixth annual Young Investigator Draft presented by CSL Behring on February 4, 2023 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Uplifting Athletes is a nonprofit organization that connects student-athletes across the country as well as professional athlete ambassadors with their local rare disease community to raise awareness and funds, and bring inspiration and hope to those impacted by rare diseases, which is approximately one in 10 Americans.

The annual event, inspired by the NFL draft, invests in research which could lead to potential rare disease treatments and cures. Just as the NFL Draft rallies around the hope and possibilities that the next generation of game-changing talent will bring a franchise, the Young Investigator Draft celebrates the early-career research investigators who are working toward a brighter future for those affected by rare diseases.

“The members of our 2023 Young Investigator Draft Class represent a group of early-career, diverse researchers who are tremendous assets to the rare disease community,” said Rob Long, executive director of Uplifting Athletes. “These individuals stand to make a profound impact on the 30 million Americans impacted by a rare disease. We are thrilled to celebrate these scientists with the same spirit and fanfare that elite athletes receive and the college and pro athletes who join us every year in this effort love sharing the stage with these deserving researchers who represent so much promise for the future,” Long added.

Including the grants to be presented at the 2023 Young Investigator Draft, Uplifting Athletes will have awarded more than $820,000 in grant funding to 44 rare disease researchers across North America since 2018. Grant submissions for the Young Investigator Draft are evaluated by an expert panel of scientific advisors prior to the selection of each year’s Draft Class. Every researcher is nominated by a patient advocacy organization (PAO) recognized by Uplifting Athletes as a priority partner, with grants equally co-funded by Uplifting Athletes and the nominating PAO. The PAO that nominated Dr. Stepanova is the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA).

Dr. Stepanova was recently awarded a fellowship from FARA to study the molecular mechanism underlying heart disease in FA. She hypothesized that the distribution of calcium in the cell is defective in FA. Calcium is an important messenger molecule and regulates processes such as the contraction of the heart. Dr. Stepanova hypothesizes that the faulty distribution of calcium is the molecular base of the cardiac defect in FA. Her idea is very innovative and has great potential to uncover a new therapeutic avenue to treat the heart disease in FA.

Dr. Stepanova said, “Receiving the Young Investigator Draft award means I can deepen my studies of the rare disease Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA). I am grateful to FARA for nominating me for this award. It strengthens my ties with the FA community and inspires me to be more involved in scientist-patient dialogues. Meeting patients and their families and hearing their personal stories created a strong sense of compassion and motivation to pursue my research interests in FA. Every single rideATAXIA event, I would meet with new people and learn their personal stories, and gradually I became more involved in FA research. I believe that a strong connection between patients and scientists is the best guide for rare disease research.”

CSL Behring is a vital partner to Uplifting Athletes, serving as the title sponsor for the Young Investigator Draft since its inception in 2018.

In addition to honoring the new Draft Class, the 2023 Young Investigator Draft will provide a forum to recognize the newest members of Uplifting Athletes’ Rare Disease Champion Team ―an exemplary group of leaders in college athletics who have made a positive and lasting impact on people affected by rare diseases.

For more information or to purchase tickets for the Uplifting Athletes 2023 Young Investigator Draft presented by CSL Behring, please visit


About FARA

The Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA) is a national, public, 501(c)(3), non-profit, tax-exempt organization dedicated to the pursuit of scientific research leading to treatments and a cure for Friedreich’s ataxia. FARA's Mission is to marshal and focus the resources and relationships needed to cure FA.

About Uplifting Athletes

Uplifting Athletes is a nonprofit organization founded in 2007 that harnesses the power of sport to build a community that invests in the lives of people impacted by rare diseases. Since its inception, Uplifting Athletes has raised more than $7 million by engaging athletes in order to positively impact the rare disease community through driving action and funding research. To learn more about Uplifting Athletes visit