UAB undergrad earns scholarship to study novel therapy for ALS

The Gwen Claussen, M.D., ALS Research Fund was created to provide research opportunities for undergraduate students in the neurosciences.

neni.3Anish MyneniAnish Myneni, an undergraduate student in neurosciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has been named the inaugural Gwen Claussen ALS Scholar. The scholarship will support research that Myneni will conduct this summer testing a novel drug for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, developed at UAB and Southern Research Institute.

The scholarship is named in honor of the late Gwen Claussen, M.D., a longtime faculty member of the UAB Department of Neurology in the School of Medicine. Claussen established Alabama’s first Lou Gehrig’s (ALS) Multidisciplinary Clinic at UAB, bringing together several specialists under one roof to more effectively treat patients with this devastating disease and to provide a platform for research.

The Gwen Claussen, M.D., ALS Research Fund, created by Claussen’s family, colleagues and the ALS Association of Alabama, will provide promising young students the opportunity to explore medical research early in their careers, potentially igniting interest in studying ALS throughout their careers. Early exposure to biomedical research helps inspire the next generation of neurologists and is paramount to creating a new cohort of talented individuals working in ALS research and clinical care.  

Myneni’s research will investigate the therapeutic potential of SRI-42127, a novel inhibitor of a protein associated with ALS, using an animal model of the disease. SRI-42127 was developed by a research team at UAB in collaboration with Southern Research Institute. It blocks the production of key inflammatory mediators in the central nervous system known to accelerate disease progression in ALS. Myneni’s work will seek to discover if the inhibiter will delay the loss of muscle strength and prolong survival in ALS mice.

“Anish is a fitting individual to be the first Claussen ALS Scholar,” said Peter H. King, M.D., professor in the Department of Neurology and Myneni’s mentor. “His enthusiasm for ALS extends beyond the lab into the community. He is the founder of an undergraduate organization, Aid for ALS, that aims to educate the community on campus and beyond about the disease and the impact it has on patients and family. His hope is to increase awareness for this devastating disease and the need to support research for finding a cure. I knew Gwen and worked with her for over 20 years, and I am certain she would be excited about Anish as the inaugural scholar.”

Myneni is a junior at UAB from southern India. He is a presidential honor roll student and works as a supplemental instruction leader in science courses at UAB for other students.

“While studying neuroscience at UAB, I have been exposed to the toll neurodegenerative diseases have on patients,” Myneni said. “ALS patients, alongside their families, suffer greatly from this fatal disease. I believe that furthering studies in ALS research will not only impact the lives of people not only nationally, but globally as well. Although there is much more to be discovered, the knowledge that my research contributions could potentially impact this devastating disease is extremely humbling and gratifying.” 

Colleagues at UAB described Claussen as dedicated to providing exceptional patient care. She devoted endless hours to her patients and helped them and their families cope with the complexities of ALS. Her patients often described her as a continual source of encouragement and the best physician they ever had. 

“Dr. Claussen was always patient and empathetic,” said David G. Standaert, M.D., Ph.D., John N. Whitaker Professor and Chair UAB Department of Neurology. “Her compassion is best highlighted by the frequent house calls she made for ALS patients too weak to get to the clinic. She was one of the very best at what she did and was a mentor and friend to countless neurologists. We hope to honor her life’s work by creating this fund.”

Standaert says Claussen shared her passion for finding a cure for ALS with fellow neurologists, and she inspired younger neurologists to follow in her footsteps. To give online to the Claussen ALS Research Fund, visit