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SATURDAY, OCTOBER 3rd, 2020, 1:00 – 3:00 PM


Join us for the 2020 Huntington’s Disease Educational Symposium!

Due to health concerns over the current COVID-19 pandemic, this year we will be hosting a “virtual” educational symposium. There is no cost to participate, but you must pre-register.


Once registered, you will receive an email confirmation with Zoom call-in details for the symposium.

Questions? Please contact: Frances Saldana 714-393-8095 Franceshdcare@gmail.comor




Peter Donovan, PhD, Professor, Developmental and Cell Biology, School of Biological Sciences and Biological Chemistry, School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine. His lab pioneered the development of pluripotent stem cells. Dr. Donovan is co-Principal Investigator with Professor Leslie Thompson on an NIH funded training program for graduate students. The program trains the next generation of outstanding graduate students in methods for using stem cells to treat neurodegenerative diseases including Huntington’s disease. Dr. Donovan’s own research includes using stem cell models to both study disease progression and to determine key safety issues associated with stem cell transplantation.




Melody Handley, Melody Bandley is an Attorney at Law and admitted to the California State Bar in 1990.  Since learning that her husband tested positive for Huntington’s disease, she became pro-active in learning about the genetics of Huntington’s disease, as well as volunteering her time in planning the 2019 HD-CARE educational symposium at UC Irvine and recruiting runners for the OC Marathon.  Her main focus while volunteering with HD-CARE has been to educate the public about Huntington’s disease and to serve as a patient advocate for her family and the HD community.



Paul Dennis, MFA, Associate Professor at UMass Amherst, College of Humanities and Fine Arts at the University of Massachusetts and The Five College Dance Department.  A former member and current guest artist with the Jose Limon Dance Company, he received his BFA in dance from the Juilliard School and an MFA including a certificate in Arts Management from Purchase College, State University of New York.  His current research uses patterns of movement to develop intervention programs for those living with HD.  Professor Dennis is committed to using dance as a tool to meet the needs of those with Huntington’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.



Sarah Hernandez, PhD, postdoctoral Scholar in the lab of Dr. Leslie Thompson, University of California, Irvine – Dr. Hernandez received a PhD in Biology and Biotechnology from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts. She joined the lab of Dr. Leslie Thompson in 2016, where she researches epigenetics of Huntington’s disease using patient-derived cells. Dr. Hernandez serves of the board of HD-CARE and has chaired numerous social and educational events throughout Orange County, as well as being a guest speaker at various educational venues to educate the corporate community, the public, and the Huntington’s disease community about current HD.



Dr. Mitra Hooshmand, PhD, Director of Scientific Programs for Americans for Cures.  She serves as the liaison between the scientific community and the public. Dr. Hooshmand received her PhD from the University of California, Irvine in a multidisciplinary field spanning Stem Cell Biology, Immunology, and Neurobiology.  She is the recipient of a number of awards, including the Lloyd Guth and Carl Cotman Junior Investigator Awards. She has also been an educator for over five years, teaching upper division stem cell biology courses at the University of California, Los Angeles, and California State University, Fullerton.



Melissa King, MBA, Executive Director, Americans for Cures – Ms. King played a central role in the founding, building and first seven years of operations for the unique $3 billion State research funding agency created by Prop 71, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).  She worked hand-in-hand with CIRM’s Chair and its founding 29-member governing Board on setting the strategic vision for the agency as well as developing the processes and policies by which CIRM operates.   She is currently serving as Executive Director, Americans for Cures, and has been instrumental in placing Proposition 14, a $5.5 billion general obligation bonds for the state’s stem cell research institute, on the November, 2020 ballot.



Blair R. Leavitt, MDCM, Neurologist and Professor, Department of Medical Genetics and Division of Neurology, Senior Scientist at the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics, University of British Columbia. A scientist and physician, Dr. Leavitt’s time (both clinical and research) is dedicated to developing new treatments for genetics brain disorders such as Huntington’s disease, Frontotemporal Dementia, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (or Lou Gehrig’s disease). Dr. Leavitt is currently the Director of Research at the UBC Centre for Huntington’s disease, and a founding Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Huntington’s Disease. A long-standing member of the Huntington Study Group (HSG) and HD clinical trial investigator, he is a former Co-Chair of the HSG and Vice-President of HSG Inc. Blair is also co-founder and CEO of Incisive Genetics Inc., a biotech firm that is developing novel nanomedicine-based delivery systems for CRISPR gene editing to treat brain diseases such as Huntington’s disease.



Leslie M. Thompson, PhD, Bren Professor, Psychiatry & Human Behavior, School of Medicine, Neurobiology & Behavior, School of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine – Dr. Thompson has carried out HD research for over 30 years, beginning as a member of the international consortium to identify the HD gene. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an honor bestowed upon association members by their peers and recognized for her distinguished contributions to the Huntington’s disease field.  Dr. Thompson is the co-editor in chief of the first academic journal dedicated to Huntington’s disease.  She is the Chair and Co-Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America and Hereditary Disease Foundation, respectively, and is a member of the scientific advisory boards for the Huntington Study Group and Enroll-HD.  Dr. Thompson is a member of the HD-CARE Scientific Advisory Board.



1:00 PM

Welcome & Opening Remarks

Ken Kast, PhD, HD-CARE Vice President


1:05 PM


Peter Donovan, PhD


1:10 – 1:20 PM

Changing Medicine, Changing Lives

Mitra Hooshmand, PhD


1:20 -1:25 PM


Melissa King, PhD


1:25 – 1:35 PM

Navigating Through an HD Clinical Trial & Family Caregiving

Melody Bandley, Esq.


1:35 – 1:40 PM



1:40 – 1:50 PM

HD Facts – A Fun HD Quiz Game

Sarah Hernandez, PhD


1:50 – 1:55 PM



1:55 – 2:15 PM

Bringing Dance to Huntington’s disease patients

Paul Dennis, MFA


2:15 – 2:20 PM



2:20 – 2:25 PM

Introduction of Keynote Speaker

Leslie Thompson, PhD


2:25 – 2:50 PM

Research Updates and Clinical Trials

Blair Leavitt, MDCM

Leslie Thompson, PhD


2:50 – 2:55 PM



2:55- 3:00 PM

Closing Comments

Ken Kast, PhD



Americans for Cures

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance OC

Donahue Schriber


Huntington’s Disease Society of America

Orange Caregiver Resource Center

UCI Undergraduate HD Club

Sanguine BioSciences Inc.

WeHaveAFace International



Frances Saldaña, President Emeritus

Kenneth Kast, PhD, 1stVice President

Diane Ford, Board Secretary

Tammy Schuff, Board Treasurer

Charissa Brown, Board Member

Sarah Hernandez, PhD, Board Member

Daniel Ignacio, Board Member

Brian Neman, MHA, Board Member

Lester Savit, Esq., Board Member



Malcolm Casale, PhD

Peter Donovan, PhD

Sidney Golub, PhD

Frank LaFerla, PhD

Larry Marsh, PhD

Anna Morenkova, MD

Andrea Tenner, PhD

Leslie Thompson, PhD

Joan Steffan, PhD