Investigator Award recipient receives American Heart Association fellowship grant

Fiona WongFiona Wong, a predoctoral trainee at the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Tucson, recently received a predoctoral fellowship from the American Heart Association (AHA). The AHA fellowship aims to enhance the research and clinical training of promising students who intend to pursue careers as scientists, physician-scientists, or clinician-scientists to improve global cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and brain health.

Wong's research focuses on hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a genetic condition that causes the heart muscle to thicken. She is specifically mapping the structure and interaction of myosin binding protein-C (MyBP-C) and myosin in HCM. "MyBP-C modulates thick (myosin) and thin (actin) filament cross-bridge interactions of the sarcomere and is essential for normal cardiac muscle contraction and relaxation," Wong explains. "The binding of MyBP-C is regulated by phosphorylation. Disruption in this binding of MyBP-C to myosin is directly linked to reduced cardiac function as seen in patients with HCM mutations."

Her goal is to develop a high-throughput screening tool that detects the binding interaction of MyBP-C and myosin. "This will allow us to understand MyBP-C phosphorylation, HCM mutations, and drug mechanisms of action," she explains. "These findings will be informative for developing precision medicine screening assays of newly identified HCM mutations in patients and new therapies for HCM."

Wong's interest in heart-related research stems from her work at MyoKardia, a biotechnology startup that uses a precision medicine approach to develop novel therapies for cardiovascular diseases such as HCM. "During my time there, I discovered a passion for cardiovascular research by contributing to studies aimed at developing novel therapies to enhance human health through understanding the underlying biological mechanisms," Wong says. "I was inspired by the innovative and meaningful research conducted there, including the development of CAMZYOS (mavacamten), the first-in-class cardiac myosin inhibitor now approved by the FDA for treatment of patients with HCM."

Wong is grateful for the Sarver Heart Center's 2020-2021 Investigator Award from Billington and Doris Griswold, which helped lay the foundation for her PhD dissertation research and her AHA predoctoral fellowship.