Georgia Research Alliance announces $15 million effort to fight sickle cell disease

A team from some of Georgia’s leading medical research institutions will soon embark on an effort to find new treatments and therapies for sickle cell disease.

The Georgia Research Alliance, an umbrella organization that includes eight universities and medical schools, formally announced the five-year, $15 million campaign Thursday. Private funding of $7.5 million has been identified and an additional $7.6 million will come from the alliance’s state appropriations over a five-year period, according to the alliance.

The plan includes endowed chairs to participate in the research, laboratory infrastructure, and other assistance to boost research and clinical capabilities.

“Sickle cell disease impacts over 100,000 people in the U.S every year, predominantly in the African American community,” Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement. “The good news is researchers and clinicians here in Georgia know how to tackle some of the most challenging problems facing humankind.”

The alliance is a nonprofit public-private partnership that began about 30 years ago between state economic development officials and colleges and universities in Georgia that conduct medical research. Its member universities are Augusta University, Clark Atlanta University, Emory University, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Mercer University, Morehouse School of Medicine and the University of Georgia.

Kemp and the alliance also announced there will be funding in the upcoming state budget to create an endowed chair that will be named for state Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, currently the longest-serving member of the Georgia General Assembly. The Calvin Smyre GRA Eminent Scholar Chair — a position with public and private funds — would provide funding for lab equipment and additional researchers, as well as resources to move discoveries from the university labs to clinics and markets.

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