During a recent ceremony, Brian Kaspar, PhD, was named the first recipient of the Grant Morrow, III, MD, Endowed Chair in Pediatric Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. This endowed chair is supported by Arthur E. Shepard and Dorothy D. Shepard, who chose to fund the chair to honor the tire¬less service and long commitment of Grant Morrow, III, MD, to research at Nationwide Children’s. For clinicians and researchers working in academic-medical institutions like Nationwide Children’s, endowed chairs represent the most prestigious and significant recognition of their work.
Dr. Kaspar, is a principal investigator in the Center for Gene Therapy at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s and an associate professor in the departments of Pediatrics and Neuroscience at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. He is a recognized national expert in the discovery of new therapies for spinal muscular atrophy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
He completed postdoctoral studies at University of California San Diego specializing in molecular pathology and at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., in the laboratory of Dr. Fred H. Gage, where he pioneered various methodologies in viral gene transfer for neurological disorders.
In 2004, he moved to Nationwide Children’s to start a laboratory focused on understanding and developing treatments for severe neuromuscular disorders. In 2009, Dr. Kaspar’s group identified the first viral vector capable of traversing the blood brain barrier and utilized these findings to treat various neurological disorders, including spinal muscular atrophy. Clinical trials for this therapy are slated to begin later this year.
A muscle-enhancing gene therapy, developed by Dr. Kaspar and colleagues in the center, is currently being tested in patients for Becker muscular dystrophy and inclusion body myositis patients, with the potential to increase muscle mass and size in these debilitating disorders.
The endowed chair’s namesake, Grant Morrow, III, MD, is a member of the Molecular and Human Genetics Section at Nationwide Children’s and a professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. He has served a number of national organization leadership assignments, including chairman of the Pediatric Residence Review Committee of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education; member of the Executive Committee of the American Board of Medical Subspecialists; and chairman of the American Board of Pediatrics, among others.
Dr. Morrow’s major commitment to research is perhaps most visible through the legacy he leaves for pediatric research on the Nationwide Children’s campus: the Wexner Institute for Pediatric Research, constructed during his tenure as medical director and pediatric department chairman. He also serves as vice chair of the Nationwide Children’s Institutional Review Board.
Mr. and Mrs. Shepard, lifelong residents of Columbus, are long-time donors to Nationwide Children’s and have been generous supporters for research. In 1989, they established the Arthur & Dorothy Shepard Research Endowment. Mr. Shepard is 101 years old and Mrs. Shepard passed away in November at the age of 98.
NOTE TO EDITOR: Dr. Kaspar is a resident of area code 43054.
Brian Kaspar, PhD, principal investigator in the Center for Gene Therapy at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s