Resolved to solving sickle cell disease

GRA initiative leverages, expands Georgia's strengths and assets

In 2021, GRA launched a major initiative to fight sickle cell disease by adding research talent and lab infrastructure in Georgia.

The announcement came at a May news conference in Columbus with Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan. Longtime State Rep. Calvin Smyre of Columbus was on hand as well – and the occasion introduced the creation of the Calvin Smyre GRA Eminent Scholar Chair in Sickle Cell Disease.

Georgia’s Solve Sickle Cell Initiative (SSCI) aims to leverage the state's considerable strengths in university research and healthcare – and break new ground in knowledge, treatment and cures. Morehouse School of Medicine, Emory University and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta are the participating institutions.

Beyond the Smyre chair, GRA is currently building partnerships and raising funds to add:

  • Mindpower. By recruiting the Calvin Smyre GRA Eminent Scholar, the Teresa White Director of Clinical Programs and two other GRA Distinguished Investigators – some of the brightest minds in Sickle Cell Disease research – Georgia will immediately expand existing research capacity.
  • Lab infrastructure. While Georgia’s university labs are generally well-equipped, crucial pieces of technology and instrumentation are needed to support the research of newly recruited scientific teams.
  • Clinical and market translation. The footprint of treatment at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta will expand so that clinicians can evaluate new approaches developed by Georgia’s university scientists. Companies will be seeded and shaped around high-potential inventions emerging from the labs.

The need for new approaches and efforts to fight sickle cell is clear. Typically diagnosed around 5 months of age, sickle cell disease brings a lifetime of sudden events – from searing pain in hands and feet to hemorrhaging and stroke.

The disease is an inherited blood disorder in which red blood cells – smooth disks that glide and flow easily through the bloodstream – become hard, spiky crescents. When these “sickles” clump together, blood flow is impeded.

GRA’s Solve Sickle Cell Initiative is designed to bring:

  • An infusion of tens of millions of new private and public research grants to support the work of newly recruited scientists
  • Significant new insights into – and potential new treatments for – Sickle Cell Disease
  • The launch of new private enterprises to bring inventions and discoveries to the clinic and marketplace
  • An elevation of Georgia’s influence and profile for taking a leadership position in addressing a critical health threat.

If you’d like to engage in this important effort, please contact Amanda Schroeder at GRA at 404.332.9770.