Cyagen Biosciences recently announced our participation as a technology award sponsor for the 2019-2020 BeHEARD Rare Disease Science Challenge, hosted by the Rare Genomics Institute. Now that the competition has concluded, we are excited to release details regarding the winners of the technology awards and the rare disease studies they plan to pursue with their prizes.

Thank you to all the rare disease researchers who participated in this grant competition – be sure to join our mailing list and follow Cyagen on social media (LinkedIn) to stay informed about future funding opportunities. Below we have included an excerpt of the public press release, which includes a list of all Cyagen technology award recipients.


Rare Genomics Institute BeHEARD Challenge Awards 21 Rare Disease Grants

Washington, D.C. August 6, 2020. The Rare Genomics Institute (RG) is delighted to announce the winners of the 2019-2020 BeHEARD (Helping Empower and Accelerate Research Discoveries) Rare Disease Science Challenge, a global competition that offers rare disease researchers, who traditionally have difficulty attracting funding, grants of the latest life science innovations and technologies. This unique biotechnology contest allows companies to contribute their technology to make a difference for the rare disease community.

“This year the competition received submissions on 27 rare diseases, coming from universities and foundations located in thirteen different countries,” said Danielle Fumagalli, BeHEARD Director. “Twenty-one cutting-edge technology prizes were awarded to study a number of rare diseases globally.”

Rare diseases affect more than 300 million worldwide, yet less than five percent of the 7,000 known rare diseases have treatments available. The winning scientists from BeHEARD will use their awards to yield key medical research insights on rare diseases that can lead to new treatments for patients.

Two examples are a mouse model, sponsored by Taconic Biosciences, and a TurboKnockout® mouse model vector construction, sponsored by Cyagen Biosciences, that were awarded to Prof. Puneet Opal at Northwestern University. These technology grants will allow his lab to test therapy options for Giant Axonal Neuropathy, a severe neurological disorder with no effective treatments. Beginning in early childhood, Giant Axonal Neuropathy causes progressively worsening balance issues, muscle weakness, seizures, paralysis, and dementia. Most sufferers become bedridden by early adulthood and die in their twenties. Prof. Opal will use the awarded mouse model and vector construction to test whether administering a replacement version of the defective protein that causes Giant Axonal Neuropathy can stop or reverse the disease.

Other winners were awarded vector constructions from Cyagen Biosciences, PCR design and analysis software from DNA Software, reagents from Addgene, and antibodies, proteins, and peptides from Bio-Techne. These technologies will be put to good use to make progress on therapies for rare diseases, ranging from the FOXG1 Research Foundation’s study of FOXG1 Syndrome, a severe brain disease that causes seizures and lack of body control, to the Jansen’s Foundation’s research on Jansen's metaphyseal chondrodysplasia (JMC), a skeletal disease that causes short stature, bowed legs, and joint deformities.


BeHEARD Winners for Cyagen Services:

Applications for the BeHEARD challenge were received from across the world and underwent a thorough review process by RG to determine the finalists.

Cyagen Biosciences would like to congratulate the grant recipients for the 2019-2020 BeHEARD challenge:


Cyagen TurboKnockout® Vector Construction

Puneet Opal, Northwestern University, Giant Axonal Neuropathy

Nasha Fitter, FOXG1 Research Foundation, FOXG1 Syndrome

Heike Rebholz, Institute of Psychiatry and Neurosciences of Paris, Okur Chung Neurodevelopmental Syndrome

Salisu Balarabe, Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto, Post-traumatic Epilepsy

Rebecca Sloan, Axenfeld-Rieger Foundation, Axenfeld-Rieger Syndrome


Cyagen Transgenic Vectors

Neena Nizar, The Jansen’s Foundation, Jansen’s Metaphyseal Chondrodysplasia


Cyagen Rosa26 CRISPR Knock-In Vector Construction/F1 Breeding

Sebastien Gauvrit, Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research, Sturge-Weber Syndrome

Andres Muro, International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Pompe Disease

Or Kahklon, Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center, Cori Disease

Lawrence Ostrowski, UNC-Chapel Hill, Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia

Neena Nizar, The Jansen’s Foundation, Jansen’s Metaphyseal Chondrodysplasia


A full list of the BeHEARD winners may be found at the RG’s official announcement.



About Cyagen

Cyagen is the world's leading provider of custom mouse & rat models. Cyagen is world renowned for its quality, money back guarantee, and cost-effective prices. Headquartered in California, with locations in Japan and China, Cyagen provides researchers from around the world with transgenic, knockout, knockin, conditional knockout models and also offers a comprehensive series of stem cell products for research use, including cell lines, media, and differentiation kits. From vector and strategy design to animal model creation, cryopreservation, and breeding, Cyagen offers complete outsourcing for all animal model needs.