Kenneth I. Maynard, Ph.D., FAHAPassion for neuroscience becomes life’s work
Almost from the beginning, Kenneth I. Maynard, Ph.D., FAHA, knew he wanted to work in the medical field. That vision led him to study for a career in stroke and neuroscience research – and in the process he became an American Heart Association awardee and active volunteer.
“When I was 16, I decided I wanted to get into medicine,” Maynard said. “I spent a summer with a neurosurgeon in my home country of Trinidad & Tobago. He advised me that if I wanted to practice neurosurgery, I needed to gain a thorough understanding of neuroscience.” So Maynard enrolled at the University of London, University College, one of only two colleges that offered undergraduate degrees in neuroscience in 1982.
“I guess the neuroscience bug bit me, because eight years and three degrees later, I joined Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School to conduct stroke research,” he said. Shortly after, Maynard received his first major fellowship funding – an American Heart Association National Minority Scientist Development Award. “My work focused on protecting the brain from stroke using protective agents that would rectify energy imbalance in the brain that resulted from stroke.”
In 2000, Maynard transitioned to pharmaceutical company Aventis in New Jersey to optimize their pre-clinical stroke research program. “While my primary research interest is still in stroke and ischemia, I now spend about half of my time on MS research, learning a lot and applying my experience with neuroprotectants to MS,” Maynard said.
Maynard said MS has similarities to stroke: there are no ideal in vivo pharmacology models with which to test the effectiveness of drugs – a challenge that has been overcome in the stroke arena. So Maynard is investigating models that mimic spinal cord and brain injury caused by MS. And, Maynard said, “Just as stroke is a vascular disease with brain consequences, MS is an immunological disease with consequences on the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord).” He is looking for neuroprotectants to treat MS.
Maynard also spends a lot of time working on a Global Core Team focused on drug discovery and drug development for Aventis’ disease-focused areas. “We look at proteins that allow interactions ... in and out of cells. We try to alter what’s going on inside the cells by using drugs,” he said.
He is also an active AHA volunteer, lending his expertise to review stroke-related research applications, working on the Minority Affairs Committee, and as a Stroke Council Fellow.
“My passion lies in stroke and ischemia research," Maynard said. "For the past 20 years, researchers have been unsuccessfully looking for a neuroprotectant for ischemic stroke. So, now the focus is on the vascular aspects of stroke, because we know that clot busters work."
Of a recent gathering of stroke researchers, Maynard reports, “We are pretty upbeat, still!”