The University of Michigan Protein Folding Diseases Initiative (PFDI) seeks to establish a virtual center that connects the diverse campus-wide expertise at the University on disorders of abnormal protein accumulations and perturbations in “protein quality control”. The unmet medical needs are tremendous: Protein Folding Diseases includes more than a hundred disorders affecting nearly all organ systems and ranging from some of the most common acquired disorders to an extensive array of hereditary diseases. Many are fatal and untreatable. Our goal is to accelerate the path to new mechanistic insights and improve treatments for these diseases.
The University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) Strategic Research Initiative is backed by a long-term commitment of over $100 million by Medical School Dean James Woolliscroft. This initiative was designed to leverage existing areas of research strength to advance the research mission of UMHS by fostering innovative, ground-breaking science.
In 2012, a program known as FastForward was initiated as part of the Strategic Research Initiative. As a result of an extensive vetting process, the Protein Folding Diseases Initiative was selected to proceed with its plans to foster research collaborations leading toward better diagnosis and improved therapies for difficult to treat diseases.
The Protein Folding Diseases Initiative is led by Andrew Lieberman, Gerald D. Abrams Collegiate Professor and Associate Professor of Pathology, and Henry Paulson, Lucile Groff Chair of Neurology for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders and Professor of Neurology.
This Initiative takes advantage of UM’s clinical and basic science strengths in degenerative brain diseases, the biological processes of membrane trafficking and endoplasmic reticulum integrity, the mechanics of protein quality control machinery including ubiquitin pathways, molecular chaperones, and autophagy, and chemical genomics and medicinal chemistry programs that can accelerate the development of new insights to therapy.