January 17, 2023

Personal Ties Energize Precision Medicine

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AdobeStock 240748898 LRIt was a day filled with emotion and hopeful anticipation.

Last November, representatives of the Wolverine Foundation, which funds research of rare diseases, arrived at UAB for the dedication of a bench honoring Bertrand Might, who passed away in 2020 at age 12 from a rare neurodegenerative condition.

Bertrand was the son of Matt Might, Ph.D., director of UAB’s Hugh Kaul Precision Medicine Institute (PMI). Might came to UAB in 2017 to lead the PMI and expand the field of precision medicine, which utilizes technologies such as genomic sequencing to personalize disease treatments.

The Wolverine Foundation’s primary benefactor, Alan Breed, has a family member with a rare disease. In an effort to discover effective treatments, the organization has donated funds to PMI and worked directly with Might.

So on this November day, Breed and Might sat together on the bench honoring young Bertrand, linking the painful past with the promising future.

pmi wolverineAlan Breed and Matt Might
“It was a very moving moment,” Might says. “We talked about how some of what is available to them now is possible only because of what I had been through with Bertrand. So there was kind of this passing of the torch.

“One of the things the Wolverine Foundation appreciates about our institute is we act like a trusted advisor as the foundation has pushed forward in their attempts to find treatments,” Might continues.
Amy McCooe, executive director of the Wolverine Foundation, says the organization is in the initial stages of developing a potential drug treatment strategy for the Mapk8ip3 genetic mutation in part because of the research being conducted at PMI.

“We were originally drawn to PMI due to Matt Might and his considerable expertise in rare disease work,” McCooe says. “Matt was incredibly patient with our group as we tried to understand this world. He has been unbelievably kind and attentive to our questions and concerns. We became deeply involved with PMI due to the comprehensive solution it offers in this space. It is fast becoming a one-stop shop for rare disease research projects.”

In addition to the bench dedication ceremony, Breed and other members of the Wolverine Foundation toured several of the PMI labs, including one facility where research involving zebrafish and worms is yielding some exciting breakthroughs.

“They were able to observe the techniques and see how the research was unfolding,” Might says. “We found an actionable hit on some fish and worm models of the disease, so they made a decision to start screening drugs, and part of that was based on their visit here.

“We were delighted that they wanted to come and see what’s happening here. It was so motivating for everybody. The level of energy their visit and support injected to the team was incredible, and that energy has really carried us forward.” – Cary Estes