Florida Tech Receives Grant from Community Foundation for Brevard for Alzheimer’s and Cancer Research

By  //  December 2, 2020

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Program funded by Kenneth R. Finken and Dorothy Hallam Finken Endowment Fund

Community Foundation for Brevard President and CEO Theresa Grimison, left, joins Florida Tech President Dwayne McCay, center, and Gary Grant, senior vice president for development, in a socially-distanced check presentation ceremony at Florida Tech. (Florida Tech image)

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – The Community Foundation for Brevard awarded two Florida Tech researchers a total of $48,800 under its Medical Research Grant to Find Cause and/or Cure for Alzheimer’s, Cancer, and Other Pervasive Diseases initiative.

The competitive program is funded by the Kenneth R. Finken and Dorothy Hallam Finken Endowment Fund based at the Community Foundation.

The recipients are Karen Kim Guisbert and Eric Guisbert, faculty members in the university’s Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering and Sciences. Each will receive a $24,400 grant.

Karen Kim Guisbert, an assistant professor, is working on the development of a targeted anticancer therapeutic for breast cancer.

She recently made a new discovery regarding protein HSF1, which has a critical role in cancer. Now, she is translating this discovery to identify a new and more effective anti-cancer treatment.

Importantly, breast cancer patients with the highest levels of HSF1 have the worst outcomes, meaning that this new strategy could help patients who do not respond well to current therapies.

Eric Guisbert, an associate professor, is conducting research focused on testing a new strategy for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the accumulation of protein aggregates.

Most of the previous research has focused on beta-amyloid plaques that form outside of cells, but thus far therapies that target this feature have not been effective.

Instead of focusing on neurofibrillary tangles that form inside of neurons, Guisbert will test whether activation of a cellular defense pathway known as the “heat shock response” can be beneficial.

The Guisbert lab will use an animal model where human tau is expressed in the neurons of C. elegans, a small roundworm, causing cell death and paralysis. This system will enable the use of genetics and the rapid testing of molecules that have been approved for human use.

“The Community Foundation for Brevard is deeply honored to represent the Finken family legacy annually through this competitive grant program,” said President and CEO Theresa Grimison.

“The cause-and-cure medical research happening at Florida Tech is truly innovative and we hope will lead to significant advances to the cause and cure of pervasive diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer – two areas that meant a lot to Mr. Finken during his lifetime.”

Kenneth Finken was an MSEE graduate of Columbia University and held four patents. He retired from the Government Electronic Systems division of Harris Corporation.

As part of his estate plan, Mr. Finken made a bequest to the Community Foundation for Brevard.

Over the last 13 years, through this generous legacy gift, Florida Tech researchers have been awarded 21 individual medical research grants via the Community Foundation that have a combined value of more than $600,000.

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