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Featured Scientists

Every few months, FARA will introduce one of our researchers to you.

Feature articles include their area of research, the focus of their work and how they are helping us to achieve our goal- an effective therapy, and eventually a cure for FA.


Jane Larkindale

Jane LarkindaleName: Jane Larkindale

Where do you work? I work for the Critical Path Institute, a nonprofit organization that works to develop tools to accelerate drug development and works towards regulatory acceptance of those tools (i.e., getting FDA, EMA and other worldwide regulatory authorities to accept them). We are based in Tucson, Arizona.

How long have you been working on FA and who was the first fellow FA researcher you met? I have been working on FA for about 12 years now, including time at FARA and at MDA, and now at C-Path. The first FA researcher I met was actually even earlier when a woman started in my lab and gave a talk about her previous work as a post-doc in a lab at the Mayo Clinic working on FA. Given I was working in a lab that focused on plant biochemistry, this is quite a coincidence! Her talk was really interesting, but it became much more interesting a couple of months later when I started looking at a job at MDA, and I realized FA was one of the diseases that MDA covered.

Sanjay Bidichandani

SanjayName: Sanjay Bidichandani

Where do you work? I work at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, where I am the head of Pediatric Genetics and I run a research lab that is entirely focused on FA.

How long have you been working on FA and who was the first fellow FA researcher you met? I have been working on FA for the past 25 years. The first FA researcher I met was Dr. Massimo Pandolfo when I was a postdoctoral fellow, and he was an Assistant Professor at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. At the time, Dr. Pandolfo was leading an effort to identify the gene for FA. I was fortunate to work with him and contribute to the discovery effort.

Elisabetta (Liz) Soragni

Liz HeadshotName: Elisabetta (Liz) Soragni

Where do you work? I work for FARA. I am the new Associate Director of Research and stated my position in October of last year.

How long have you been working on FA and who was the first fellow FA researcher you met? I have been working on FA for about 14 years. The first FA researcher I met was Dr. Joel Gottesfeld. I interviewed for a position in his lab at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla the year after his lab started working on FA.

Marcondes C. França Jr, MD, PhD

MarcondesName: Marcondes C. França Jr, MD, PhD

Where do you work? Department of Neurology, University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Brazil

How long have you been working on FA and who was the first fellow FA researcher you met? I have been working with FA for more than ten years. The initial contact I had with FA was during my fellowship in neuromuscular disorders. During my Ph.D. (2005-2008) under the supervision of Prof Iscia Lopes- Cendes, I kept working in the field.

What got you interested in FA research? FA deeply impacts the quality of life of affected patients, most of them as kids, teenagers, or young adults. In my personal view, the only way to move forward and find effective treatments is by doing research. This is my real motivation – try to help these individuals.

Winter 2017

Dr Ben Deverman and group Dr. Ben Deverman

By Matt LaFleur

“Please, just Ben.”

The first thing I asked Dr. Ben Deverman is whether he preferred to be called “Dr. Ben” or “Dr. Deverman.” He seemed relieved as he gave me his answer, and I knew that my job would be easy: I am lucky to introduce him.

One of the most exciting fields of scientific research is gene therapy, a term that leaves most of us suffering with FA feeling awe and wonder. If FA is, by definition, a genetic anomaly, then the science of correcting genes seems extremely promising for FA.

The exciting promise of gene therapy was delivered to us at the FA symposium by Ben Deverman, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, director of the CLOVER (CLARITY, Optogenetics and Vector Engineering Research) Center within the Beckman Institute at Caltech in Pasadena, CA:

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