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.