John Svaren joins research office leadership team

By Natasha Kassulke

John Svaren, PhD
John Svaren, PhD

John Svaren, professor of Comparative Biosciences at the School of Veterinary Medicine and director of the Waisman Center IDD Models Core, has been named the interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Research in the Biological Sciences.

Svaren replaces Cynthia Czajkowski in that role. Czajkowski was recently named interim Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education.

The Associate Vice Chancellor (AVC) for Biological Sciences provides leadership in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education (OVCRGE) for biological sciences and interdisciplinary research across campus. Other OVCRGE responsibilities include divisional area recruitment and retention, grant matches, faculty awards, Fall Competition awards, and special initiative awards such as Research Forward.

“John comes to the AVC position with a strong understanding of what is needed to enhance, support and grow research across the biological sciences,” says Czajkowski. “His administrative experiences in running a successful research core at the Waisman Center, reviewing grants for NIH and other external funding agencies, being a past member of the UW- Madison Biological Divisional Committee as well as an active participant in multiple graduate student training program gives him a broad perspective for initiating and overseeing OVCRGE-funded research opportunities and for supporting campus research core facilities.”

“I am looking forward to this new leadership opportunity and to interact with and support researchers in the biological sciences across campus,” says Svaren. “The interdisciplinary research enterprise at UW­–Madison has been a tremendous asset and I hope to help foster continued growth so that our research mission remains on the cutting edge.”

Svaren’s research interest is in transcriptional regulation of peripheral nerve myelination and Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease (CMT). Peripheral nerves connect the brain and spinal cord to our limbs and organs, serving as vital communication relays.

CMT is one of a group of disorders that cause damage to the peripheral nerves—the nerves that transmit information and signals from the brain and spinal cord to muscles, as well as sensory information such as touch, back to the spinal cord and brain.  CMT typically affects the longest nerves in the arms and legs. CMT  typically becomes evident in childhood or adolescence, and its progression leads to  muscle weakness and atrophy decreased sensation, impaired balance, and foot curvature that requires bracing and/or surgery.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, CMT is one of the most common inherited neurological disorders, affecting an estimated 126,000 individuals in the U.S. and 2.6 million people worldwide. There is currently no cure for CMT but Svaren’s lab is working to better understand the molecular machinations behind the disease. His lab focuses on the most common type of CMT, CMT1A.

Aside from basic science studies, Svaren’s lab has identified novel therapeutic strategies to treat CMT disease, and they have implemented discovery approaches in collaboration with clinicians and industry for novel biomarker assessments that can be used in clinical trials for major forms of CMT. As part of these efforts, Svaren is currently a board member of the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association and serves as chair of its scientific advisory board.

Svaren is a Vilas Associate Research Award recipient, Outstanding Mentor Awardee in the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, and has received a Pfizer Research Award from the School of Veterinary Medicine. Svaren is a member of the American Society for Neurochemistry, International Society for Neurochemistry, Peripheral Nerve Society, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Society for Neuroscience.

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