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About Dr. La Spada

La Spada lab shoot

La SpadaAlbert La Spada graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Biology in 1986. While a MD - PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, La Spada identified the cause of X-linked spinal & bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA) as an expansion of a trinucleotide repeat in the androgen receptor gene. As the first disorder shown to be caused by an expanded repeat tract, this discovery of a novel type of genetic mutation led to the emergence of new field of study. After completing training as a Clinical Genetics fellow and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Physician Postdoctoral Fellow, he joined the faculty at the University of Washington Medical Center in 1998, and became a Professor of Laboratory Medicine, Medicine (Medical Genetics), Pathology, and Neurology (Neurogenetics). In 2009, Dr. La Spada accepted the position of Professor and Division Head of Genetics in Pediatrics, Cellular & Molecular Medicine, and Neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego, and was a founding faculty member of the UCSD Institute for Genomic Medicine and Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine. In 2017, Dr. La Spada was selected as the founding Director of the Duke Center for Neurodegeneration & Neurotherapeutics, and is a Distinguished Professor of Neurology, Neurobiology, and Cell Biology at the Duke University School of Medicine, where he serves as the Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Neurology. 

Dr. La Spada's research is focused upon neurodegenerative disease, and he is seeking the molecular events that underlie neurodegeneration and neuron cell death in spinocerebellar ataxia type 7 (SCA7), SBMA, Huntington’s Disease, ALS, and Parkinson’s disease. He and his team have uncovered evidence for transcription dysregulation, perturbed bioenergetics, and altered protein quality control as contributing factors to neuron dysfunction. By reproducing molecular pathology in mice and in neurons derived from human patient stem cells, Dr. La Spada has begun to develop therapies to treat these disorders. Dr. La Spada has been the recipient of grants and awards from the National Institutes of Health, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Hereditary Disease Foundation, CHDI, Coulter Foundation, American Federation for Aging Research, Packard Center for ALS Research, Michael J. Fox Foundation, and Harrington Discovery Institute. Among his awards is the Paul Beeson Physician Faculty Scholar Aging Research Award. In 2006, Dr. La Spada was inducted into the American Society for Clinical Investigation. In 2007, he was bestowed with the Lieberman Award by the Hereditary Disease Foundation for excellence in Huntington’s Disease research, and in 2011, he received the Molecular Mechanisms of Neurodegeneration Distinguished Research Award in Milan, Italy. In 2013, Dr. La Spada was inducted into the Association of American Physicians, and in 2015, Dr. La Spada was selected as a Gund-Harrington Scholar for his translational research accomplishments. In 2018, Dr. La Spada became a funded member on one of eleven teams that comprise the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s Neurodegeneration Challenge Network, after an international competition.