A $1 million grant from the John Merck Fund will expand translational research at Cincinnati Children’s to improve outcomes for children born with Fragile X Syndrome (FXS).

Craig Erickson, MD, a researcher in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, plans to use the funds to launch a clinical trial to evaluate Acamprosate – a drug currently used to treat alcohol dependence – as a potential treatment for youth with FXS.

In previous, early-stage studies at Indiana University, Erickson reported that Acamprosate’s effects on brain chemistry may help improve communication and social behavior skills for people with FXS. If the new FXS clinical trial proves successful, the drug also could be evaluated for use in other forms of developmental disability.

The grant awarded to Erickson is one of three recently announced by the John Merck Fund’s new  Developmental Disabilities Translational Research Program, established in 2011. The Boston-based foundation, established in 1970 by the late Serena Merck, is beginning to spend down all of its assets. The fund plans award its last grants in 2021 and close its doors in 2022.

The three recent grant awards were selected from more than 100 proposals.

“What’s especially exciting about this Program,” said Marsha Mailick, PhD, Chair of the Fund’s Scientific Advisory Board, “is that it supports research with potential game-changing impact that is within the realm of probability – not just possibility – and could be achieved within 10 years.”