Johnson joins ‘Dream Team’ of scientists collaborating on rare pediatric cancer

UNC Lineberger member Gary Johnson, PhD, professor and chair of the UNC Department of Pharmacology, has been tapped to join Synodos, a team of scientists working together to defeat the rare genetic disorder neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2). A first-of-its-kind NF research collaboration, Synodos has brought together centers of excellence from institutions across the country. Johnson will be just one of 12 academic researchers in the collaboration.

Established by the Children’s Tumor Foundation, this unique consortium brings together a multidisciplinary team of scientists from world-class labs at academic and medical centers of excellence, who have pledged to work closely together – sharing information, datasets, results and more – at every step in research development, with the goal of speeding up the drug discovery process.

“This is indeed a ‘Dream Team’ committed to develop effective therapeutic treatments to cure NF2,” said Johnson. “This is a great opportunity for my lab to contribute to this important goal. The Children's Tumor Foundation is committed to work with all of us to achieve this goal.”

The group of researchers come from varying backgrounds – from basic science, to translational science, to clinicians – and have joined together to break down barriers, proactively leverage collaboration and shared knowledge, and work together to develop effective new
Johnson Synodostreatments that will end NF2.

NF2, or neurofibromatosis type 2, is a genetic disorder that affects one in every 25,000 people and causes tumors to grow on the brain, spine and nerves, and can result in deafness, facial paralysis, inability to walk without assistance, choking and blindness. NF2 patients experience significant morbidity and mortality related to the disease. NF2 affects all populations equally, and there is not yet a cure.

“Synodos brings together the brightest minds in the NF field, and beyond, in order to design strategies and execute research in a manner free of bureaucratic obstacles,” said Annette Bakker, PhD, President and Chief Scientific Officer of the Children’s Tumor Foundation. “The unique value of this consortium of researchers is its collaborative and multidisciplinary activity, bringing researchers together in a way so as to understand NF2 in all its characteristics and manifestations.”

The term synodos comes from the grouping of two ancient Greek words: syn and odos, which when combined mean ‘to work together on the same path.’ This spirit of likeminded purposefulness has for the first time brought together NF researchers in an effort modeled after the much-acclaimed ‘Stand Up To Cancer’ initiative. Participants have agreed to work together in a transparent and collaborative manner.