Connective Issues Spring 2024

 Laboratory team of Julie De Backer, MD, PhD (center), Patrick Sips, PhD (right) – Belgium

Team of Researchers Receive EVEREST AWARD

The Marfan Foundation has granted its second Everest Award to a team of researchers led by Julie De Backer, MD, PhD, a cardiologist and clinical geneticist at Ghent University in Belgium who actively provides care to individuals with Marfan syndrome and supervises clinical research of the condition. If successful, Dr. De Backer’s project may lead to the development of new treatment options for the prevention of aortic dissection in people with Marfan syndrome, potentially reducing the need for surgical repair. “For years, we have understood that inflammatory processes play a crucial role in aortic disease in Marfan

syndrome, yet the complex roles of specific immune cells remain a mystery,” said Dr. De Backer. “Through this esteemed Everest Award, our collaborative global research will leverage cutting-edge techniques to unravel these intricate processes. This project not only promises to explore options to implement immunotherapy for Marfan syndrome but also exemplifies the pivotal role of The Marfan Foundation’s support in paving the way for these innovations. Together, we are very eager to explore new pathways to treatment that could transform the lives of people a ff ected by Marfan syndrome and related (heritable) thoracic aortic diseases.” Dr. De Backer’s Everest project will further investigate the specific immune cells associated with tissue damage in the wall of the aorta of mouse models with defects in

The Everest Award is the Foundation’s largest grant designed to “reach the summit” on a critical path to a breakthrough in basic or translational science that has direct relevance to human health. To learn about the Foundation’s research impact including how to get involved, view previously funded grants, and how to support, visit


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