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Dr. Anthony Anzell Presented with $20,000 Research Grant

The University of Pittsburgh’s Dr. Anthony Anzell Presented with $20,000
Research Grant from Uplifting Athletes

Dr. Anzell is among 10 rare disease researchers to be awarded a grant at Uplifting Athletes’ Young Investigator Draft on Feb. 3 at Lincoln Financial Field Pittsburgh (January 9, 2024) — Uplifting Athletes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the rare disease community, has announced that the University of Pittsburgh’s Post-Doctoral Scholar, Anthony Anzell, Ph.D. will receive a $20,000 research grant as a member of Uplifting Athletes’ 2024 Young Investigator Draft Class.

Dr. Anzell is among a group of 10 researchers who will each receive an unrestricted grant for medical research at Uplifting Athletes’ Young Investigator Draft February 3, 2024 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Uplifting Athletes is a nonprofit organization that connects student-athletes across the country as well as professional athlete ambassadors with their local rare disease community to raise awareness and funds and bring inspiration and hope to those impacted by rare diseases, which is approximately one in 10 Americans.

The Young Investigator Draft is inspired by the NFL Draft but shifts the focus from the selection of potential talent on the football field to recognizing the next generation of promising young medical researchers in the rare disease space. It is one of several signature initiatives created by Uplifting Athletes to raise awareness and research funding for rare diseases, which affect approximately 30 million individuals in the United States.

This year’s Young Investigator Draft marks a significant milestone as Uplifting Athletes will cross over the 1-million-dollar threshold of total grants awarded throughout the history of the program.

“The members of our 2024 Young Investigator Draft Class are adding tremendous potential to the rare disease community,” said Rob Long, Executive Director of Uplifting Athletes. “We are thrilled to celebrate these scientists with the same spirit and fanfare that elite athletes receive and the college and pro athletes who join us every year in this effort love sharing the stage with these deserving researchers who represent so much promise for the future.”

Grant submissions for the Young Investigator Draft are evaluated by an expert panel of scientific advisors prior to the selection of each year’s Draft Class. Every researcher is nominated by a patient advocacy organization (PAO) recognized by Uplifting Athletes as a priority partner, with grants equally co-funded by Uplifting Athletes and the nominating PAO. The PAO that nominated Dr. Anzell is Cure HHT.
Dr. Anthony Anzell was diagnosed with Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia (HHT) when he was 15 years old after almost dying from a brain abscess. After three brain surgeries and other HHT-related treatments, Anthony recovered and has devoted his life to helping raise awareness, money, and now, finding a cure for HHT.

Dr. Anzell is known in our community for doing crazy challenges and physical events to bring people together in support of his rare disease. A short list of his accomplishments includes raising $3,000 in a bowling fundraiser, $6,000 while biking 188 miles across Michigan, $8,000 in a 50-mile ultramarathon, $8,000 in an ultra-triathlon (3-mile swim, 126-mile bike, and 32-mile run), and $13,000 after a 19-mile swim across Torch Lake. To say Dr. Anzell is impressive is an understatement and would be true of any able-bodied individual but taking his rare disease and near-death experience into consideration, makes his efforts even more inspiring.

Dr. Anzell received his PhD in Physiology from Wayne State University School of Medicine in 2020. He is currently training as a post-doctoral scholar under the mentorship of Dr. Beth Roman at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health where he studies one of the primary HHT gene mutations, ACVRL1, in both primary endothelial cells and developing zebrafish embryos. His proposal aims to elucidate the cellular mechanisms that lead to the development of arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) and study these mechanisms in a “mosaic” context where in humans, AVMs contain both normal and mutant cells. This is something that is poorly understood in the HHT field.
There are currently no FDA-approved therapies to treat HHT, the mechanism of AVM formation is fundamentally uncharacterized, and our animal models do not perfectly recapitulate the complexity of the disease manifestations found in human patients. Dr. Anzell’s unique approach to combine normal/mutant endothelial (blood vessel) cells in a mosaic-style culture system creates a more appropriate environment to study the effects of cell-cell interaction, cellular architecture, and cellular movement. In addition, his proposal moves from understanding to intervention with the proposed addition of proteins to rescue aberrant phenotypes.

“Receiving the Uplifting Athletes award means a great deal to me in more ways than one.” described Anthony Anzell. “I am incredibly grateful for the Uplifting Athletes organization and their mission to use the platform of athletics to support rare diseases such as HHT. As a patient with HHT, it means the world when people care. As I have heard a colleague once say, a rare disease isn’t rare when you have it. To be supported in such a way as this makes us patients with rare diseases feel like we aren’t in this fight alone. As a researcher I feel incredibly honored for my work to be chosen for this award. I thank both Uplifting Athletes and Cure HHT for their generous support and feel more motivated than ever to continue working on a cure for the HHT community!”

The audience at the 2024 Young Investigator Draft will include student-athlete leaders from Uplifting Athletes’ collegiate chapters across the country, notable professional athletes, biopharmaceutical representatives, healthcare professionals, and those directly impacted by rare disease and their families. The Young Investigator Draft is family-friendly and VIP tickets include a special behind the scenes tour of Eagles stadium.

For more information or to purchase tickets for the Uplifting Athletes 2024 Young Investigator Draft, click here.

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