The inaugural Mick Hitchcock, Ph.D. Chair in Medical Biochemistry, Peter L. Jones strives to cure FSHD in UNR Med

Through the Campaign for the New Nevada, donors have supported the research and instructional efforts of our faculty through endowed faculty positions and programming and research support. We are proud to feature donor-supported faculty who have inspired their students and pursued high-impact research designed to improve lives across the globe.

 Several people in lab coats in a research lab Spencer Schreier, staff research associate; Peter L. Jones; Takako Jones; Ning Chang, graduate student and Jones Lab member; and Charis Himeda, research assistant professor. In 2017, Professor Jones was named the Mick Hitchcock, Ph.D. Chair in Medical Biochemistry. With his co-principal investigator, his wife Associate Professor Takako Jones, Jones' research focuses on facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, the most prevalent muscular dystrophy that afflicts men, women, children, and adults. (Photo by Brin Reynolds)

One of the most powerful and life-changing impacts that donor-funding has had during the Campaign for the New Nevada is through the establishment of the Mick Hitchcock, Ph.D. Chair in Medical Biochemistry. Through the generosity of Mick Hitchcock, who has worked in the biopharmaceutical industry for more than 30 years, this tenure-track faculty position was created in the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine. In 2017, UNR Med announced Peter L. Jones as the inaugural Hitchcock Chair. Jones came to Nevada with his wife and co-principal investigator, Takako, a research associate professor. The primary clinical research focus of the Jones Lab is facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), the most prevalent muscular dystrophy that afflicts men, women, and children alike.

Dr. Peter Jones on the importance of the Mick Hitchcock, Ph.D. Chair in Medical Biochemistry for the Peter and Takako Jones Lab

"We were weighing four offers for our research program. While a number of factors played into our decision, the Hitchcock Endowed Chair was something other places could not offer. It provides us the freedom to pursue lines of research and to choose how to dedicate our time and effort.

"The additional funding has allowed us to pursue high-risk/high-reward type projects prior to submitting for grant funding. It has helped to accelerate some of the more interesting and innovative (and new) aspects of our research program.

"It has brought prestige and recognition to our research program. I can rightfully tell patients and patient advocacy groups that UNR is highly invested in FSHD research and it helps us secure private funding and raises the profile of UNR in the patient and pharma communities. Endowed chairs and professorships mean a lot to the scientific community."

Learn more about the Jones Lab

When Jones brought his team of researchers to Nevada to continue his work, Hitchcock said of his appointment, "Dr. Jones' drive toward translating his ideas into clinical utility to improve the lives of patients impacted by FSHD is inspiring. It is also exactly the type of biochemical research that I had in mind when I established the endowed chair."

Since 2003, Jones has been investigating epigenetic dysregulation underlying FSHD pathogenesis. FSHD is a debilitating disease for which no cure or ameliorative treatment exists. To fill this need, the Jones Lab has created the first mouse models of FSHD that exhibit key aspects of disease pathology, invented a simple and reliable diagnostic test for FSHD, and identified promising potential therapies that are currently in preclinical testing. Jones also uses his expertise at the NIH Center for Scientific Review to evaluate federal research proposals targeting a wide range of neuromuscular diseases.

In addition to helping treat FSHD, the Jones lab is committed to spreading awareness and understanding of the disorder. Jones has been appointed to the FSH Society's Ambassador Program and combines his outreach efforts with the #CureFSHD campaign. He and the rest of his team are active public representatives and spokespeople for the FSH Society. Their efforts include generating public service and fundraising announcements, meeting with patients and their families, contributing meeting reports and articles, and moderating discussions with both patients and researchers regarding the details and implications of their work.

After arriving to campus, Jones and his team have secured additional funding for new research:

  • "Stryka-001 treatment in the FSHD-like mouse model"
    Co-PIs: Takako Jones, Ph.D., and Ryan Wuebbles, Ph.D. (Burkin lab), funded by the FSH Society
  • "Development of next-generation AAV vectors for effective CRISPR inhibition of FSHD"
    PI: Charis Himeda, Ph.D., funded by FSHD Canada Foundation
  • "New compound discovery for facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy therapy"
    PI: Peter Jones, Ph.D., funded by the Chris Carrino Foundation for FSHD

They have also published two papers:

  • Charis Himeda, Ph.D. published a paper in Molecular Therapy identifying new therapeutic targets for FSHD. "Identification of epigenetic regulators of DUX4-fl for targeted therapy of facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy." Molecular Therapy, 26(7):1797-1807. These have been licensed by Fulcrum Therapeutics, Inc.
  • Takako Jones, Ph.D. published her FSHD-like mouse model, which is the first of its kind. "A cre-inducible DUX4 transgenic mouse model for investigating facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy." PLoS One 13(2):e0192657.

Learn more about the research performed by Peter Jones and his team by visiting the Peter and Takako Jones Lab:

To learn more about supporting the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, please contact Shari Netzel, director of development, at (775) 682-6077.

In the stories in IMPACT, we look beyond the dollars to show how donor contributions are building the New Nevada. Were you inspired by this story? Consider making a contribution to build the New Nevada.

Campaign logo showing three pillars and words "Building What COmes Next: The Campaign for the New Nevada" on blue background

Nevada Logo

University of Nevada, Reno

University of Nevada, Reno Foundation, Development and Alumni Relations
Morrill Hall Alumni Center / Mail Stop 0007, Reno, NV 89557

Phone: (775) 784-1352
Fax: (775) 784-1957