Doctor behind drug that changed local girl’s life honored

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(KWTX) In the same week a Central Texas second grader with muscular dystrophy is getting her eighth injection of a drug that's changed her life, the doctor behind the medicine has been recognized in what's being called "The Oscars of Science."

Faith Fortenberry met the drug's developer, Dr. Adrian Kariner, in September. (Courtesy photo)

Dr. Adrian Krainer, a professor at St. Giles Foundation and program chair of cancer and molecular biology at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, was awarded the 2019 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Sunday night at the NASA Ames Research Center in Palo Alto, Calif.

Krainer, along with C. Frank Bennett, from Ionis Pharmaceuticals, was given the award for developing Spinraza, the first and only FDA approved medication to treat a form of muscular dystrophy Faith Fortenberry lives with called SMA Type 2.

Actor Orlando Bloom presented the award on a show that aired on the Nat Geo Channel as his co-host thanked the researchers for "time spent away from your family to save ours."

Back in Central Texas, the family of Faith Fortenberry celebrated the award as she headed to Fort Worth to receive her eighth injection of Spinraza at Cook Children's Hospital.

In late September Krainer and Fortenberrys were able to meet face to face as the doctor visited Baylor for a lecture on the development of Spinraza.

"I felt like I was meeting Elvis Presley or the president," Faith's mother, Leeann, said.

Forteberry said the drug has allowed her daughter to do things she's never been able to before like lift her hands above her shoulders and sit up for long periods of time unassisted.

But beyond breaking down the physical barriers, Leeann says the drug has given her family hope.

"When we first got diagnosed we didn't have any hope," she said.

"We didn't know where to go or what to do so the fact that the man who invented the medicine who has dramatically changed her life and saved her life and is allowing her to do things that she wasn't able to do and prolong her life….just the fact that I'm positive we'll be able to love her a lot longer than we thought we would because of Dr. Krainer and what he's done in his research all these years."

Krainer and Bennett were also presented with a $3 million prize.