Sean Murphy Wins National Fellowship

Cystic Fibrosis MRI

Sean Murphy, Ph.D., is one of 10 scientists nationwide selected to receive a Senior Research Training Fellowship Award from the American Lung Association. Murphy is a post-doctoral fellow at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

The award was based on the scientific merit, innovation, and feasibility of Murphy’s project to develop a cell therapy for cystic fibrosis. Murphy’s mentor is Anthony Atala, M.D., director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

People with cystic fibrosis have a gene defect that causes the body to produce thick, sticky mucus that builds up in the lungs and digestive tract. The mucus can lead to life-threatening lung infections and disrupt the normal breakdown and absorption of food. According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the median life expectancy for people with the disease is the late 30s.

A potential therapy for the disease may be a type of stem cell found in placenta (afterbirth) and amniotic fluid that was discovered by Atala’s research team. These cells have been shown to have the ability to form normal lung cells and to produce lung-specific genes and proteins, including the gene that is defective in CF patients. The goal of the project is to use these cells as an injectable therapy in animals with a CF-like disease.

“Our ultimate goal is to develop a cell replacement therapy to restore normal gene function in patients with CF,” said Murphy.

The objective of the award is to support the training of physicians and PhDs who seek additional training as scientific investigators in order to pursue a career in pulmonary medicine and lung biology research. The American Lung Association particularly encourages applications from individuals working in eliminating tobacco use and tobacco-related lung diseases, improving air quality, and reducing the burden of asthma, COPD and lung cancer on patients and their families.

Ph.D. applicants must be in their 1st or 2nd year of postdoctoral training. The intent of the award is to provide support for first-time post-doctoral research fellows as they transition toward tenure track faculty positions.

Murphy is a graduate of the University of Western Australia and earned his doctorate degree at Monash Institute for Medical Research, Monash University, Australia.

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