Dr. Justin A. Roby Receives 2016 Perkins Coie Award For Discovery

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Grant Supports Research on Spread and Combat of Zika Virus

SEATTLE, Wash. (May 24, 2016) – Perkins Coie is pleased to announce that Dr. Justin A. Roby, Senior Fellow, Department of Immunology at the University of Washington, has been selected to receive the Perkins Coie 2016 Award For Discovery and accompanying $20,000 grant. The Award For Discovery is part of Perkins Coie’s commitment to support translational research at the University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine. The 2016 award to Dr. Roby is the tenth of its kind made by Perkins Coie.

Dr. Roby plans to use the award to continue his research on understanding innate immune regulation by the Flavivirus Zika, an infection transmitted primarily by mosquitoes. The virus causes microcephaly, a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly. Zika is able to adversely affect the development of an embryonic brain through an undefined mechanism leading to microcephaly. Dr. Roby’s research will investigate the mechanism of Zika-induced microcephaly to identify a viral protein that may be targeted with therapeutic interventions.

“Dr. Roby’s work is essential in understanding how the mosquito-borne Zika virus spreads and induces microcephaly,” said Jim Lisbakken, a partner and co-chair of Perkins Coie’s Life Sciences practice. “The emergency operations center for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is on its highest level of activation because of the Zika outbreak. The Obama Administration has asked for billions of dollars in emergency funding to combat the Zika virus. Perkins Coie is committed to supporting research that can lead to breakthroughs in science and health to make a better world. We are pleased to have the opportunity to support Dr. Roby alongside the UW School of Medicine with the Award For Discovery grant program.”

During early development of the embryonic brain, neural stem cells (NSCs) undergo a series of cell divisions, increasing their number allowing growth in brain mass. Around mid-gestation, a period ensues in which some of NSCs begin to change, becoming mature brain cells. Control over the order of these events is crucial for normal brain development in the growing embryo. Growth hormones, and other signaling molecules, have been associated with control over these developing NSCs, regulating their survival, cell division, and normal brain development. Flaviviruses that are related to Zika have been demonstrated to block similar signaling processes. The financial support of Perkins Coie’s Award For Discovery will assist Dr. Roby to define the breadth of the signaling blockade.

“The very recent finding that Zika virus infection can cause microcephaly has caused international concern,” said John Slattery, Vice Dean, Research and Graduate Education, UW School of Medicine. “The funding made available by Perkins Coie is exactly the kind of support that scientists need to be able to respond to this threat rapidly.”

About the Perkins Coie Award For Discovery: Since 2007, Perkins Coie has awarded a $20,000 grant each year to support new projects that will generate data to be used as a basis for larger research programs to be funded by the National Institutes of Health or other funding agencies. In 2012, Perkins Coie extended its contribution with a commitment of another $100,000 to be distributed over the following five years. Perkins Coie’s Award For Discovery is a part of the firm’s larger Innovative Minds grant program, which recognizes innovation and creativity in our communities.

About Perkins Coie: Founded in 1912, Perkins Coie LLP has more than 1,000 lawyers in 19 offices across the United States and Asia. The firm provides a full array of corporate, commercial litigation and intellectual property legal services to a broad range of clients, from FORTUNE 50 corporations to emerging growth startups, as well as public and not-for-profit organizations.

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