Prominent award goes to UF researcher Laura P.W. Ranum

August 13, 2015

University of Florida Health researcher Laura P.W. Ranum has won a prestigious Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to study an inherited central nervous system disease.

Named for the late U.S. Sen. Jacob Javits, the award offers up to seven years of research funding to scientists “who have a distinguished record of substantial contributions in a field of neurological science and who can be expected to be highly productive,” according to the institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health.

The four-year, $2.5 million grant, which can be renewed for three additional years, will be used to conduct research on spinocerebellar ataxia type 8, said Ranum, director of the Center for NeuroGenetics and a professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of molecular genetics and microbiology.

Spinocerebellar ataxia type 8 is a genetic disorder that impairs nerve fibers carrying messages to and from the brain, according to the National Ataxia Foundation. The disease causes balance and coordination problems, slow and drawn-out speech as well as difficulty swallowing as it progresses

 The Javits Award is an especially significant honor because it recognizes a researcher’s body of work. Some 560 Javits Awards have been granted since 1983. Ranum is the fifth UF researcher to receive the award.

“I was thrilled to learn about this award.  It’s a big honor and an award I see as credit to the many talented students and postdocs that I have had the pleasure to work with over the years,” Ranum said.

The award validates the importance of Ranum’s work, which is leading to new understandings of the mechanisms that result in neurological diseases, said Henry Baker, chairman of the department of molecular genetics and microbiology.

“She has assembled a strong team at UF, and I am confident that Dr. Ranum and her group will make many important discoveries in the future and receive many accolades and awards,” Baker said.