Tony Paniagua speaks to Joaquin Ruiz, PhD, UA\\u0019s Dean of the College of Science and Sanjay Bidichandani, MBBS and PhD, the vice president for research at the Muscular Dystrophy Association. They\\u0019ll address a new program that involves training for postdoctoral fellows in \\u001Ctranslational research\\u001D called Bridge\\u002Dto\\u002DIndustry (B2I) which will fund participants to conduct research to try to develop drugs for neuromuscular diseases.\\u000D\\u000A\\u000D\\u000ASanjay Bidichandani, Ph.D. \\u002D Vice President for Research, Muscular Dystrophy Association \\u000D\\u000AJoaquin Ruiz, Ph.D. \\u002D Dean, UA College of Science

The Tucson-based Muscular Dystrophy Association has announced a pilot program that could lead to important discoveries to fight muscular diseases such as muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig's disease.

The MDA, which has its national headquarters in Tucson, has teamed up with the University of Arizona and other organizations to provide funds for "translational research" involving postdoctoral students from the university.

Sanjay Bidichandani, vice president for research at the MDA, says the "Bridge-to-Industry" program, also known as "B2I" will work with researchers by giving them experience in academia and the biopharmaceutical industry. It's part of a larger effort that focuses on economic support for vital studies.

"We do this by funding basic research, translational research and clinical research," Bidichandani says.

"The simple way to understand this is in basic research we try to figure out what is wrong in people who have any of these diseases and in clinical research we try to fix it by giving drugs to individuals who have these conditions," he adds.

"But translational research refers to the part where we take the information from the lab and translate into something that is a drug, that is meaningful to individuals that have these conditions."

Joaquin Ruiz, dean of the UA College of Science, says B2I is a win-win for everyone involved, especially for the young scientists who will be pivotal in future discoveries.

"So having partnerships with companies or with foundations or any kind of organization that's willing to do that is a dream come true, not only for me but for all the scientists that are working in what we call basic research," Ruiz says.

The MDA says the first postdoctoral student under this program is receiving $180,000 for a three-year study involving treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The goal is to support additional students in coming years.