Studies on Huntington’s disease by a Novato researcher have received a $750,000 grant.

The Buck Institute of Aging announced Nov. 20 that Taube Philanthropies’ award will support the work of Dr. Lisa Ellerby in collaboration with the Taube Neurodegenerative Disease Stem Cell Initiative – a research consortium that is working on Huntington’s disease.

The inherited disorder results in death of brain cells. The earliest symptoms are often subtle problems with mood or mental abilities. Victims grow to lack coordination leading to more apparent jerky body movements. Speech is eventually affected and, eventually, mental abilities decline into dementia.

According to the Huntington’s Diease Society of American, there are approximately 30,000 symptomatic Americans and more than 200,000 at-risk of inheriting the disease.

Ellerby is an expert on cell death in neurodegenerative disorders. In addition to Huntington’s disease, these disorders include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease).

She is working with other members of the Taube NDSCI to generate new stem cell models, test drug candidates and use single-cell analysis to understand the pathogenesis of the disease.

“All four investigators on the team are generating additional stem cell models and evaluating new small molecules for use in treating the disease,” she stated in the announcement.

Founded by businessman and philanthropist Tad Taube in 1981, and now led by Tad and his wife Dianne Taube, Taube Philanthropies has operated for more than 30 years in the Bay Area. Novato-based Buck states it focuses its efforts on projects to promote “aging without illness.”