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Health & Wellness

Institute named for Hunter Kelly gets $2 million for Krabbe Disease research

Chris Caya/WBFO News

The Hunter James Kelly Research Institute at the University at Buffalo has been awarded a five-year, $2 million grant from The National Institutes of Health to continue Krabbe Disease research. The rare disease impacts the brain and spinal cord of newborns and is often fatal. The research could lead to a cure for Krabbe and other neurodegenenative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis.

The institute's co-director, Dr. Laura Feltri, says UB researchers are making advances in treating the disease with bone-marrow transplant therapy.  

"This is very exciting because together with advancements in gene therapy, which are being made around the world, allow us now to pinpoint with our work which cells exactly need replacement therapy. And together this will work much more efficiently to direct the right therapy to the right cells and offer a cure for this devastating disease," Feltri said at a news conference Monday morning.   

Feltri says recent advances in gene therapy have led UB researchers to rethink some previously accepted premises about Krabbe disease.  

"I think our work has really come as a surprise because of some of the assumptions that were made. We are working together with the community working on the therapies to really understand the complexities of the disease and how to treat it in a more efficient way," she said.

Since the Hunter James Kelly Institute was founded in 2004, it has grown to include a staff of nearly three-dozen people. The institute has received more than $60 million in federal and other funding since 2011.

The institute is named for the late son of former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly. Hunter Kelly died in 2005 at the age of 8. When he was diagnosed shortly after his birth, he was given no more than three years to live.