In 1987 Peggy joined the lab of Dr. Francis Collins at the University of Michigan as a post- doctoral fellow, working on NF1. In 1989 she was awarded a Young Investigator Award (YIA) fellowship from the National Neurofibromatosis Foundation (now The Children’s Tumor Foundation, CTF). In July 1990, Peggy, along with a lab at the University of Utah, announced the cloning of the NF1 gene – the first major break-through toward understanding the basis of NF1. A year later, she started her own lab at UF, continuing to study NF1.
For 30 years, her lab has been funded to study NF1 genetics and tumor biology. This started with funds from UF, but since 1992 has included a variety of agencies: the CTF, the American Cancer Society, the National Institutes of Health, Searle Scholars Program, Children’s Miracle Network, the Department of Defense (NF Research Program), and NTAP (Neurofibromatosis Therapeutic Acceleration Program).
Peggy has always had a strong interest in understanding how the NF1 gene and its variations lead to NF1, why NF1 can be so different between patients even within the same family, how variants lead to neurofibromas and malignant tumors, and why these and other complications are so unpredictable.
Throughout the years in Dr. Wallace’s lab, many excellent young trainees contributed to her work, including two who won YIAs. They have many scientist and physician collaborators, here in Florida, around the country and internationally. Most importantly, over 350 people with NF1 plus their family members have volunteered in the research, contributing samples such as blood, saliva, and tumors removed during surgery, and NF1 clinical information. These contributions have been key in their studies, and have helped many other laboratories as well. The CTF has led the way in fostering collaboration among scientists and clinicians which is critical for progress
On occasion patients with NF2 or schwannomatosis contribute to the research, and our Lab has connected those paitents to researchers studying those conditions in more depth. The CTF website lists over 100 cell cultures available for NF research from my lab. Our lab has also sent cell lines to over 60 different laboratories over the years.
We still have work to do, to understand NF1 gene changes and how they relate to NF1 clinical signs. With the adult NF clinic recently established at UF, this lab is now reconnecting with people who contributed years ago. Gathering long- term information, and NF1 gene data, especially within families, is our current project. This can provide a unique opportunity to answer some key questions. If you or a family member participated in our research in the past, or are interested now, please contact Dr. Peggy Wallace: email firstname.lastname@example.org or text/call 352-214-7123.
Why has it taken almost 30 years to get the first NF1 drug? NF1 has turned out to be very complicated, scientifically and clinically. So, gathering as much data as possible, through different approaches, is needed to solve NF1 mysteries. In today’s world we have great scientific tools, so there are plenty of great ideas for studies – we just need to find enough money to pay for the work.