Xavier University biology professor Kelley Crowe holds up a football jersey with her name on the back at the Uplifting Athletes 2023 Young Investigator Draft.

Xavier Faculty Member Awarded $20K Grant for Rare Muscle Disease Research

Feb 11, 2023

A Xavier University professor helping to develop a therapy for a rare muscle disease just received a $20,000 grant to support her work.


Kelly Crowe, PhD, an assistant professor within the Biology Department at Xavier, has spent the past decade working with the Neuromuscular Disease Foundation to develop a gene therapy for GNE myopathy, a genetic disease that causes progressive muscle weakness and atrophy that, in most cases, ultimately leaves patients unable to walk.

“It's a challenging disease for patients, because it really impairs mobility and impacts patients’ lives,” said Crowe, who joined Xavier in 2022.

Crowe and her research team, which includes Xavier students, are now testing a therapy they hope will prove effective in treating the rare, inherited neuromuscular disease.

The grant to support this work comes from Uplifting Athletes, a nonprofit that seeks to bring inspiration and hope to those impacted by rare diseases. That group comprises approximately one in 10 Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Though Crowe’s work is unrelated to athletics, her focus on a rare disease earned her a spot as one of only 10 members of Uplifting Athletes’ 2023 Young Investigator Draft Class. She officially received her $20,000 grant on Sunday at the organization’s sixth annual Young Investigator Draft at Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Philadelphia Eagles. Inspired by the NFL Draft, the event raises money for the development of potential rare disease treatments and cures.

“The members of our 2023 Young Investigator Draft Class represent a group of early-career, diverse researchers who are tremendous assets to the rare disease community,” said Rob Long, executive director of Uplifting Athletes. “These individuals stand to make a profound impact on the 30 million Americans impacted by a rare disease. 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.”


Still only in her second semester of teaching at Xavier, Crowe said the University community has been very welcoming and supportive of her endeavors, and her students have impressed her with their vigor.

"Teaching Xavier students has made me even more excited about my research,” Crowe said. “They ask great questions in class, great questions about my research. I always have fun talking to students during office hours. It all just makes me excited to keep pushing on the research front.”

In addition to her research focus on rare muscle diseases, Crowe is also interested in muscle atrophy that occurs during spaceflight. She is taking part in multiple NASA-related projects to support this area of her research.

Crowe holds a PhD in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology from Ohio State University, as well as a master’s in biology from Missouri State University and a bachelor’s in biology and psychology from Drury University.

Photos courtesy of Uplifting Athletes

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