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RESEARCH FOR A CURE

Propel A Cure is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that raises funds for innovative research focused specifically on identifying the underlying cause or causes of Crohn’s disease, the first step in the development of a cure. Funding for projects comes primarily from patients, their families, friends, and caregivers. Propel a Cure carefully allocates these donations so that they will be used solely for promising research that will ultimately lead towards a cure for Crohn’s disease.

CURRENT PROJECTS

 

PROMAKHOS THERAPEUTICS

 

In February 2024 Propel a Cure awarded $100,000 to Promakhos Therapeutics for their innovative proposal, "Validating the Role of Mucosal Innate Immune Deficiency in Crohn’s Disease." Promakhos is a Boston-area startup housed in the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab, an incubator lab co-managed by Harvard University and Lab Central.

 

This team's exciting project centers on the hypothesis that the mucosal innate immune response is not activated correctly in Crohn’s patients. Based on their observations, up to 90 percent of patients with active disease have lower than normal levels of innate immune activating molecules. This would appear to mean that the innate immune response is not functional and therefore impairs antimicrobial responses in Paneth cells, leading to defective bacterial clearance.

 

By reactivating the innate immune signal, Promakhos believes that the defective communication between the gut microbes and the immune system could be restored in the majority of Crohn’s patients. Ultimately, they hope that their preclinical work that Propel a Cure will help fund and that will be completed in two years or less can pave the way for a curative, non-immunosuppressive oral treatment that can remediate faulty innate immune signaling in the gut.

 

5/2024 update: Promakhos Therapeutics' initial discovery utilized 25 Crohn's patient fecal samples from a leading Boston hospital. They are now obtaining additional fecal samples to further expand on their findings. The team will determine whether the bacterial molecule levels are similarly reduced across patients, or whether there are differences in levels depending on disease location (ileal, colonic, ileocolonic) or treatment status.

 

The team is now working to categorize and test the newly received fecal samples. Later, they aim to transplant Crohn's patient stool that reflects the 10-fold reduction in bacterial molecule levels into mice to develop a clinically relevant mouse model of bowel inflammation. They will then use this model to further validate the therapeutic effect of their candidate drug in order to move to the clinic. These results are also expected to confirm whether the team can use the levels of these bacterial molecules as a biomarker to predict which patients might benefit the most from the treatment.

 

MARK M. DAVIS LAB

Propel a Cure has also helped fund a groundbreaking study at the Mark M. Davis Lab at Stanford University focusing on T-cell receptors (TCRs) in the gut of Crohn’s disease patients. In immune-mediated diseases, TCRs bind to certain antigens that appear foreign, flagging them for destruction.

 

The Davis Lab has explored the specific TCRs involved in Crohn’s and has made progress in better understanding their behavior by finding patterns and grouping certain sections of their sequences into clusters using a unique algorithm they have created that has successfully worked in other diseases.

 

The lab has also been using an algorithm to study human leukocyte antigens (HLAs), proteins that are on most of the cells in the body. HLAs present antigens to TCRs, triggering a reaction if the antigen appears foreign. Like the TCRs, there should be a pattern to the behavior of HLAs. The research team is hoping that these special algorithms will help them unlock the specific antigens involved in Crohn’s disease. 

 

We excitedly await the results of this exciting project, which we anticipate will be submitted for publication to a peer-reviewed academic journal this year.

SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY BOARD

Propel a Cure is grateful to our Scientific Advisory Board, which advises our organization on the scientific merits of proposed projects and distribution of research funds, as well as on other substantive scientific issues or questions as needed.

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Dr. Mark Davis

Dr. Mark M. Davis is the director of the Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection and the Burt and Marion Avery Family Professor of Immunology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He is the former Chair of the Stanford University School of Medicine - Microbiology and Immunology. Dr. Davis is well known for identifying the first T-cell receptor genes, and his lab at Stanford strives to discover the role of specific T and B lymphocytes in autoimmune diseases and other human diseases. His work is at the forefront of developing methods to interrogate the human immune system both when it works and when it doesn’t, such as in inflammatory bowel disease. 

 

 Dr. Davis received his B.A. in molecular biology from the Johns Hopkins University and a  Ph.D. in the same area from the California Institute of Technology. He has received many honors and awards, including being elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the Royal Society of London. He also just finished a term as President of the American Association of Immunologists. 

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Dr. R. Balfour Sartor

Dr. R. Balfour Sartor is the Margaret and Lorimer W. Midget Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is affiliated with the Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology; the Department of Microbiology and Immunology; and the School of Medicine. He is also director of UNC’s Gnotobiotic Core. Dr. Balfour is a gastroenterologist who specializes in managing difficult-to-treat patients with inflammatory bowel disease and a mucosal immunologist/microbiologist who has pioneered research on the critical role of enteric microbes in driving intestinal inflammation. He has also studied the influence of environmental factors on intestinal microbiota composition and functions. In addition, Dr. Sartour has conducted research showing that the cytokine interleukin-10 secreted by antigen-presenting cells in response to resident microbiota is a key determinant of mucosal protection against chronic inflammation by inducing regulatory T-cells.

 

Dr. Sartour completed his medical degree and residency at the Baylor College of Medicine (Houston) and his fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Dr. Michael Dolinger

Dr. Michael Dolinger is an Assistant Professor of Pediatric Gastroenterology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital in New York City. A primary focus of his recent research has been the use of intestinal ultrasound (IUS) as a novel, noninvasive tool to monitor inflammatory bowel disease activity and treatment response in order to improve outcomes and enhance shared understanding. Dr. Dolinger leads the Henry and Elaine Kaufman Intestinal Ultrasound Program at the Susan and Leonard Feinstein Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at Mount Sinai, the first of its kind in the United States. He is the co-founder of the Intestinal Ultrasound Group of Canada and North America, IUSCAN, and currently serves on the North American Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition Inflammatory Bowel Disease Committee, and on the Pediatric and Artificial Intelligence Committees of the International Bowel Ultrasound Group (IBUS). Through his work with IBUS, Dr. Dolinger leads the training and certification of gastroenterologists in the United States for performing IUS.

 

Dr. Dolinger received his medical degree from Albany Medical College (NY). He completed his residency and chief residency in pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center (New York City) and his pediatric gastroenterology fellowship and advanced inflammatory bowel disease fellowship at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

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Dr. Jennifer Strople

Dr. Jennifer Strople is a pediatric gastroenterologist at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Her clinical focus is pediatric inflammatory bowel disease, on which she has co-authored a number of research studies. She is also involved in research initiatives as her center’s representative to ImproveCareNow, a collaborative chronic care network that focuses on improving the care and health of children with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis by advancing understanding of these conditions and better directing clinical care. In addition, Dr. Strople is her hospital’s Program Director for the Pediatric Gastroenterology Fellowship, overseeing both the professional and career development of medical trainees and faculty development concerning teaching and supervision of the trainees.

 

Dr. Strople received her medical degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She completed her residency and fellowship at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

2023 SYMPOSIUM IN CHICAGO

 

In May 2023, Propel a Cure, in partnership with Connecting to Cure Crohn’s and Colitis, hosted a brainstorming session in Chicago, where global IBD experts gathered to collaboratively identify areas of consensus and data deficits. The cross-disciplinary contingent was drawn from a variety of subspecialities, including genetics, multi-omics, the microbiome, immunology, and bioelectronic medicine.

 
Just a few of the many themes and areas discussed included:

 

  • Leveraging existing IBD patient and first-degree relative cohorts and expansion of patient sample access for research purposes

  • Looking beyond the gut: learning from other immune-mediated diseases 

  • Gleaning what disease emergence in developing countries can tell us about causes

  • Better defining “Crohn’s” (and other IBDs) and breaking it down into different diseases and/or phenotypes

  • How to increase research collaboration and break down silos

  • And much more! 

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MOVING FORWARD

 

As we continue to move forward, we need your financial support now more than ever to fund research for a cure (or cures). Please consider a one-time or recurring donation so that together we can make prevention, better treatments, and cures a reality! It will take all of us, but we truly believe the goal is achievable and we can prevent and stop so much suffering. Propel a Cure is a 501(c)3  nonprofit whose Board members receive no salaries, work out of their homes, and frequently dip into their own personal funds to cover our minimal overhead costs. All donations are tax-deductible for U.S. residents, and no donation is too big or too small.

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