By Harriet Saxe, APBD RF Board of Directors
June 18, 2020

Dr. Orhan Akman receives Foundation support to study APBD

In a recent conversation with Orhan Akman, PhD — one of our research grant recipients — at Columbia University, I learned that he had been walking across New York City’s landmark George Washington Bridge in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic to continue his work. I did a double take at the picture his words created in my mind.

COVID-19 has affected every one of us in different ways. For the APBD community, it threatened the continuity of over four years of research that our Foundation has been funding at Columbia University.

Dr. Akman’s research focuses on exploring and altering the genetic footprint of APBD. His commitment in this unprecedented situation touched me deeply.

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    Dr. Akman earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. He continued his studies and earned his PhD in Anatomy and Cell Biology from the State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn.  After SUNY, he joined Salvatore DiMauro, MD as a postdoctoral student in the H. Houston Merritt Clinical Research Center at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and there he was introduced to APBD. 

    Dr. Akman used his molecular biology knowledge to identify pathogenic mutations in the gene that’s at the root of APBD. With the insights gained from analyzing patient-provided samples, Dr. Akman recognized that he could develop a model of APBD for use in testing treatment methods. That is where the APBD Research Foundation began funding his projects aimed at shedding light on APBD. 

    Between September 2008 and December 2010, Dr. Akman continued his research at Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, TX) with William J. Craigen, MD. Dr. Akman is currently an assistant professor of neurology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

    Dr. Akman — Photo Credit: Columbia University Irving Medical Center

    Dr. Akman lives with his family, about 10-12 miles from the university’s medical center campus. In April, he developed COVID-19 and moved out into a separate residence so that he could isolate himself from his loved ones. Once he recovered, he realized he was actually closer to the campus — just a bridge and ten blocks away. That’s when he started walking across the GW Bridge to continue working on the ideas that intrigue him and hold so much promise for our community and other sufferers of different glycogen storage diseases.

    “It’s a nice walk in the morning,” added Dr. Akman, in his characteristically upbeat style.