Uplifting Athletes and TESS Research Foundation Award Naomi Dirckx, PhD, $20,000 Rare Disease Research Grant

A group of researchers standing on a stage and holding jerseys with their names on them

Uplifting Athletes and TESS Research Foundation Award Naomi Dirckx, PhD, $20,000 Rare Disease Research Grant

TESS Research Foundation has partnered with Uplifting Athletes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the Rare Disease Community, to support young research investigators focused on rare genetic and rare muscular and neurological disorders. As part of this collaboration, Naomi Dirckx, PhD, from Johns Hopkins was recently selected by Uplifting Athletes as a member of its 2022 Young Investigator Draft Class and awarded a $20,000 unrestricted rare disease research grant.

This funding supports Dr. Dirckx’ research on the role of citrate in bone strength and quality. More broadly, her research helps us better understand how cells use citrate: how citrate is transported into and within cells, as well as how cells use citrate to develop and function properly. As SLC13A5 Epilepsy is a citrate transporter disorder, this work is very important to the TESS research community! 

In addition to her scientific investigations, Dr. Dirckx is a key member of our SLC13A5 community because of her collaborative nature. “Scientists like Dr. Dirckx—ones who are willing to tackle challenging questions with rigor and reproducibility, as well as share resources and knowledge with other investigators—are key to driving science forward to ultimately develop a cure for our patient community,” said Dr. Tanya Brown, Scientific Director at TESS Research Foundation.

The Young Investigator Draft was celebrated in Philadelphia on February 5 with a level of fanfare typically reserved for elite athletes. The Draft is inspired by the NFL Draft, but shifts the focus from the selection of emerging talent on the football field to recognizing the next generation of promising young medical researchers in the rare disease space. It is one of several signature initiatives created by Uplifting Athletes to raise awareness and research funding for rare diseases, which affect one in every 10 individuals in the US.

“With each Draft Class, we welcome to the team a new group of brilliant young researchers who will move us ever closer to finding treatments and potential cures for the world’s rarest diseases,” said Rob Long, Executive Director, Uplifting Athletes. “Dr. Dirckx is incredibly deserving of this recognition and certain to make an impact in the Rare Disease Community.”

Dr. Dirckx completed her PhD in biomedical sciences at the Catholic University of Leuven in the lab of Dr. Christa Maes. In 2018, she moved to Baltimore to begin her work as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Thomas Clemens at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Dirckx was awarded a Young Investigator Award of the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research.

Research is key to advancing treatments and potential cures for rare diseases like SLC13A5 Epilepsy. TESS Research Foundation is grateful to Uplifting Athletes for supporting Dr. Dirckx and her work!