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Featured Scientists

Every few months, FARA will introduce one of our researchers to you.

Feature articles include their area of research, the focus of their work and how they are helping us to achieve our goal- an effective therapy, and eventually a cure for FA.


Elisabetta (Liz) Soragni

Liz HeadshotName: Elisabetta (Liz) Soragni

Where do you work? I work for FARA. I am the new Associate Director of Research and stated my position in October of last year.

How long have you been working on FA and who was the first fellow FA researcher you met? I have been working on FA for about 14 years. The first FA researcher I met was Dr. Joel Gottesfeld. I interviewed for a position in his lab at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla the year after his lab started working on FA.

Winter 2017

Dr Ben Deverman and group Dr. Ben Deverman

By Matt LaFleur

“Please, just Ben.”

The first thing I asked Dr. Ben Deverman is whether he preferred to be called “Dr. Ben” or “Dr. Deverman.” He seemed relieved as he gave me his answer, and I knew that my job would be easy: I am lucky to introduce him.

One of the most exciting fields of scientific research is gene therapy, a term that leaves most of us suffering with FA feeling awe and wonder. If FA is, by definition, a genetic anomaly, then the science of correcting genes seems extremely promising for FA.

The exciting promise of gene therapy was delivered to us at the FA symposium by Ben Deverman, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, director of the CLOVER (CLARITY, Optogenetics and Vector Engineering Research) Center within the Beckman Institute at Caltech in Pasadena, CA:

Featured Scientist - 2016-2017

FDr Matt Hierschey Dr. Matt Hirschey

By Eileen O’Connor

Matt Hirschey’s favorite grade school class involved what he de- scribes as “crazy logic puzzles” in which you try to problem solve and restore the order of things. For as long as he can remember he has been drawn to the challenge of problem solving – and to- day it is this passion to answer some of the most challenging ques- tions in the field of Molecular Physiology that motivates Hirschey in his work at Duke University Medical Center, where he is lead- ing a team in FA research.

Dr. Hirschey, an Associate Professor in the Departments of Medi- cine and Pharmacology, traces his interest in physiology and drive to understand how the body works to his background as a com- petitive athlete. A lifelong runner and track and field competi- tor at the University of Vermont, he has always been fascinated by how the body metabolizes and produces energy. Originally Hirschey intended to pursue a medical degree, but his passion for research and problem solving led him to earn a PhD in chemis- try, which he received from the University of California in Santa Barbara.

Featured Scientist: April 2016

VJ PhotoVijayendran Chandran, PhD

FARA Young Investigator Awardee. Dr. Chandran has developed a novel FA mouse model that can be used to study the effects of frataxin-deficiency and model paradigms of frataxin restoration.

By David Woods, PhD

From India to Germany to the US: An internationalist pursuing science, and working for human well-being.

Vijay, as he prefers to be called, grew up in the delightfully named town of Ooty, a tourist venue in the South India region of Tamil Nadu. He went on to acquire a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology and a Masters in bio informatics from Bharathiar University, named for Subramania Bharathiar, one of Vijay’s favorite poets.

From there, it was off to Germany to do his PhD studies at the University of Bielefeld, which he chose because of its eclectic mix of students from Brazil, Japan, Australia, and the UK before crossing the Atlantic to join UCLA's Department of neurology where he is at present a project scientist in neurogenetics. 

Featured Scientist: Dec. 2015

Jordi Magrané Jordi Magrané

By David Woods, PhD.

A Barcelona fan with goals in mind for FA

Barcelona born Jordi Magrané says that his interest in mechanisms of neurodegeneration and the role of mitochondria in neurodegenerative disease led him at first into research on Alzheimer’s and ALS.

But since working with Friedreich’s Ataxia , he has found a greater sense of collaboration and less competitiveness than in the other areas of research he has tried. Research in Friedreich’s Ataxia is an area, he says, in which he’s felt really comfortable. And he credits FARA for much of that. His interest in abnormal mitochondrial axonal transport is especially applicable in FA.

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