State of the Team: An Open Letter

Pictured here: Grant with his daughter Kate Finlayson, the inspiration behind Team Hydro.  Along with his wife Pam and sons Peter and Sam, Grant keeps Team Hydro moving on the quest to find and fund a cure for hydrocephalus.  You can support the cause HERE.

Dear Friends,

Our family is heading to SF this week, where on Saturday at 8:30am my wife Pam and sons Peter & Sam will jump into the frigid waters of the San Francisco Bay for Team Hydro’s annual Alcatraz Swim for Hydrocephalus Research!
I am pleased to report that, over the past year, Team Hydro’s research efforts have continued to have tremendous impact.  A recap of 2022-23 highlights:
  • Team Hydro funded four new “seed” grants (Innovator Awards organized by the Hydrocephalus Association, for which Pam serves on the board of directors and our son Sam serves on the research screening committee).  For info on these new grants see (link).
  • This brings Team Hydro’s funded grants to date to a total of 17, for an aggregate of more than $1 Million in grant funding.  These grants have been awarded to 15 different researchers across three continents, and affiliated with 11 world class research institutions including among others Harvard University, Washington University of St. Louis, Indiana University, University of Queensland (Australia), University of California at San Diego, Wayne State University, Loma Linda University, and University of Patras (Greece).
  • Team Hydro’s seed grants have achieved extraordinary multiplier effects, with the first $1 Million in funded research to date collectively qualifying for follow-on funding of more than $20 Million in major awards by NIH and DoD to multiple Team Hydro grantees — an aggregate multiplier of over 20x (up from 7x a year ago).
  • One of our superstar grantees, Dr. Bonnie Blazer-Yost (recipient of two Team Hydro grants in 2015 and 2022) recently received major additional follow-on funding of $11.7 Million from DoD. (link)
  • Building on these grants, Indiana University has announced plans to launch a dedicated Hydrocephalus Research Center to be led by Dr. Blazer-Yost — which we believe is the first such dedicated research center in the world. (link)
  • Just this past week, it was announced that a second compound (utilizing SGK1 inhibitors) developed by Dr. Blazer-Yost’s research has been granted a patent by the US Patent Office.  (link).  Like her first patented compound (utilizing TRPV4 inhibitors), this one will also now move into clinical trials on the path to approval by the FDA for non-surgical treatment of Hydrocephalus (i.e., a pill to reduce CSF production, potentially enabling treatment without the surgical placement of high risk shunt devices).
  • Another super-star researcher, Dr Carolyn Harris was the recipient of a Team Hydro-enabled grant in 2020 to study the differences in how immune cells in the brain react after a shunt is placed.  Earlier this year, Dr Harris secured nearly $3M in follow-on funding from the NIH to continue that research!  This funding will allow her team at Wayne State to decipher how and why shunts are failing – from what tissue source and what those cells are doing – and then importantly how to prevent that from happening.  Inspired by her successes, she’s also founding a startup company to build a more physiologic valve for patients!
  • Dr. Ryann Fame, a brilliant young scientist who conducted cutting-edge research on cerebrospinal fluid (CSF, the complex system that becomes disrupted with Hydrocephalus) as a post-doctoral fellow under a Team Hydro grant to the Lehtinen lab at Children’s Hospital in Boston, has been appointed Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at Stanford Medical School. (link)  Dr. Fame will now lead her own laboratory at Stanford, focusing on the CSF system and Hydrocephalus and funded in part by another Innovator Award this year.  Dr. Fame, who is an open water swimmer, will also personally join us for the Alcatraz Swim this Saturday! (She previously completed several Team Hydro swims with us across the Boston Harbor.)  
We are so proud and grateful that Team Hydro has been been able to play a small role in encouraging Dr. Blazer-Yost, Dr. Fame, Dr. Harris, and a growing number of additional brilliant scientific innovators (link) to bring their training, talents and passion to the challenge of solving Hydrocephalus. This has been the dream for Team Hydro from the beginning — to encourage a new generation of our most promising researchers to apply their talents to improve scientific understanding, develop better treatments, and ultimately find a cure for this tragic condition that has has been neglected for so long.
We are pleased to note that Team Hydro has been able to apply its limited resources with extraordinary efficiency and careful stewardship:  
  1. With all overhead provided on a volunteer basis, we honor our commitment to donors that 100% of donations go directly to research
  2. By partnering with our good friends at the internationally prominent Hydrocephalus Association, which runs a request for proposals each year, we gain access to a remarkable pipeline of world-class research proposals — with Team Hydro enjoying the right to select for funding the proposals that we are convinced have the greatest potential for outsized impact
  3. As noted above, the quality and impact of Team Hydro-funded research is reflected in the tremendous follow-on funding multiplier we have witnessed:  more than 20x to date, and continuing to rise as more funded projects mature. 
We are thrilled to welcome for the Team Hydro Alcatraz Swim this year one of our largest groups of dedicated swimmers ever, including the entire Stanford Water Polo team (link), the Malvern Prep (PA) water polo team (link), members of the San Ramon Valley High School water polo team, as noted one of our distinguished grant recipients (go Professor Fame!), and we will again be joined by a remarkable athlete who lives with shunted hydrocephalus (go Kate Damrell!), as well as friends and family members of other heroic hydrocephalus patients.  
We also continue to be grateful for the dedication of local age group swim teams that sponsor fundraising events for Team Hydro:  in particular, we salute the Dorset Dolphin swim team of  Marietta, Georgia (link), which hosts the “Dolphin Dash” each year to raise funds and awareness for Hydrocephalus research (our love and gratitude to the Beck family, whose inspirational daughter Lilly swims — and lives each day — with shunted hydrocephalus).  The successful 6th annual Dolphin Dash completed this summer brought the total contribution from local swim team events to Team Hydro’s research funds over the $100,000 mark.  
We applaud and celebrate the efforts of all of these swimmers to help spread the word:  using their strength as swimmers to do good, and tapping their networks to raise awareness and funding for the cause.  We believe they will be great champions and ambassadors for Hydrocephalus research into the future.
Finally, with great gratitude for your generous support, we note the following milestones in our overall fund- and awareness-raising efforts:  
  • Team Hydro’s total funds raised has now surpassed the $1.5 Million mark
  • Since inception, Team Hydro has received generous donations from approx. 10,000 contributors — a metric of our collective success in the key goal of spreading awareness!  
  • The recent liquidation of an (anonymous) in-kind donation of a private equity fund interest brought its contribution to Team Hydro to more than $300,000 — our largest single donation to date.
The great success that we have been blessed with is giving us confidence to be able to deploy effectively a larger amount of funding going forward.  So if you are in a position to help — with personal donations, in-kind donations, and/or recommendations for other sources of support — we will continue to be extremely grateful!
Whether it is for $3 or $300,000, every donation is a precious treasure to us:  a genuine expression of your love, empathy and respect for those who suffer, and a commitment to do what we can to make things better for those who struggle with tremendous pain and constant impending tragedy.
Thank you again for your friendship and support for this important cause!  If you are in a position to do so and feel so inspired, Pam’s fundraising page can be found here.
Grant Finlayson
Chief Towelholding Officer
Team Hydro Foundation  
Pictured left to right: Grant, Sam, Pam, Kate, and Peter Finlayson

A look back: Q&A with the oldest man ever to swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco

Last Summer, Charles Cantoni entered the icy waters off Alcatraz Island with Team Hydro to swim to San Francisco to raise funds an awareness for hydrocephalus research.  At 87 years young, he became the oldest person ever to do so.   Mr. Cantoni and his family plan to be at Aquatic Park again this year to cheer on his fellow Team Hydro Family of swimmers.  As we ramp-up for this years swim, we paused for a moment to catch up with him as he reflects on his accomplishments from a year ago!

TEAM HYDRO (TH): It has been one year since you became the oldest person ever to participate in the Alcatraz Swim.  What are your thoughts as you reflect back on the experience?

CHUCK CANTONI (CC): Looking back, I’m glad I was able to do the swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco, at age 87. Really pleased with my donors coming up with $18,000. Team Hydro is a first class foundation. I swam with a great bunch of swimmers, some very fast, none slower than me. The time I spent over close to 3 years in preparation for the swim was worth ever minute (swimming over 500 miles for endurance, learning about wet suits and learning to open water swim).

Photos from the 2023 swim are proudly displayed at Mr Cantoni’s home

TH:  It was wonderful to have you with us, and we are so happy you were up for the challenge.  Your family has a personal connection to hydrocephalus, would you mind sharing a little bit about your family’s experience?

CC: Our third son Jason was born in 1972. He was afflicted with hydrocephalus at birth. On day 2 of his life he had his first shunt implanted, to be followed by more than 20 surgeries throughout his 51 years. We faced an unknown future but decided “we can do this.” Jason has lived and worked in Fairbanks, Alaska for 17 years and now resides in California. The keys for our family were to learn all about hydrocephalus, to be a team mate to Jason in working through all of the medical factors and to “Never Give Up.”

Mr. Cantoni pictured on race day with his wife Bonnie, and swimmate Steve Haney

TH:  Perseverance is certainly something we can all learn from the examples of the brave folks like Jason who are afflicted with hydrocephalus.  How did you find out about Team Hydro?  What led you to decide to join the Team Hydro Family?

CC: We found out about Team Hydro through their relationship with the Hydrocephalus Association.  We joined the Team Hydro family to do our part to support hydrocephalus medical research and to help create awareness of hydrocephalus.

TH: We’ve been partnering with the hydrocephalus organization for over 15 years to increase funding for research — we are so delighted to felt inspired to join the cause like you did!  It sounds like you had a great experience during the swim.  What is one of your fondest memories from participating in the Team Hydro Alcatraz Swim for Hydrocephalus Research?

CC: My fondest memories are definitely of the generous response of my donors. Not only their donations, but the communication that went on between these generous folks and myself. If you are thinking of donating, include a message of encouragement (the donation software allows for it). You will then have a very appreciative happy swimmer. We all need an atta boy now and then!

TH: What, if anything, surprised you about your experience?

CC:  Well, first off, I was surprised at how wet suits work and how to get in and out of them. Never had one in all these years. I was also surprised and happy that we could raise $18,000 (we started out with a goal of $5,000).

TH: So awesome that you continue to challenge yourself and learn and experience new things!  How has becoming a member of the Team Hydro community impacted you and/or your family?

CC: We’re very pleased to see the work of the foundation regarding hydrocephalus. We’re very encouraged to see the research dollars being raised by Team Hydro go 100% to the grants. Oh, and Sam and Peter – they’re the best.

Mr. Cantoni (center) exits the bay with fellow swimmers Tom Coury (left) Steve Haney (rear) and Peter Finlayson

TH: You’re too kind.  We are thrilled to be able to associate with so many amazing folks, like you and your son Jason and your wife, in the Team Hydro Family.  We’re always looking for terrific people to welcome into the fold — be it as researchers, swimmers, towel-holders, or donors.  What would you say to someone thinking about making a contribution to Team Hydro?  

CC:  There are a lot of fund raising activities going on that involve physical activities such as walk-a-thons, etc. Your swimmer who is asking for the donation is likely stepping out of his/her comfort zone to brave the chilly waters of the San Francisco Bay. Your donation will help convince them that the trip is worth it !!!

TH: There is nothing like the Team Hydro Alcatraz Swim for Hydrocephalus Research, that’s for sure!  Our volunteer model ensures that 100% of the funds received from the swim go directly to research, so in addition to supporting the swimmer, donors can be confident they are making the most out of their donation dollars.  Looking ahead to Saturday, 82 swimmers will be joining the cause again this year, many for the first time.  What advice do you have for them? 

CC:  Far be it for me to give advice to those who know so much more about swimming than I do. Instead, I would say “Just go do it.” When you are half way across, spin around and take in the view. Darn few people ever get that chance. I tried that but the 2 foot chop obscured my view. May calm waters be with you.

TH:  The Bay Swim is certainly an incredibly unique experience.  Is there anything else you’d like to share?

CC: Well, yes. A very hearty thank you to you swimmers for jumping into the Bay to raise funds for hydrocephalus research. If you stop and think about it, it’s getting to San Francisco the hard way. And an equally hearty thank you to you donors for your kindness and generosity. WELL DONE.

TH: Thank you so much for your continued support and love for Team Hydro, Mr. Cantoni.  We look forward to seeing you at Aquatic Park!

Malvern Prep Water Polo Team Swims from Alcatraz with Team Hydro for Hydrocephalus Research

Hydrocephalus is a neurological condition impacting ~1 million Americans; there is no cure and the only treatments require brain surgery. The Friars are using the talents they honed in the pool to swim from Alcatraz to support this worthy cause!

San Francisco, CA. The Team Hydro Foundation will host the 19th Alcatraz Swim for Hydrocephalus Research on August 19th, 2023. This year, the Boy’s Water Polo Team from Malvern Preparatory School in Malvern, PA will take the plunge into the icy-cold waters off the notorious Alcatraz Island. The Friars will use the swim to kick-off their rigorous pre-season training trip to Northern California.  This event highlights the schools Augustinian Core Values of  Truth, Unity, Love.

“My family have been big swimmers and water polo players since we were kids. We started swimming when my sister needed physical therapy as part of her rehab from brain trauma associated with her hydrocephalus.  She developed into a Championship swimmer, and my brother and I both played Division 1 water polo at Stanford.  Our sister Kate loved swimming, but unfortunately her life was cut short by hydrocephalus,” said Peter Finlayson, Co-Founder of Team Hydro. “To see the Water Polo community rally around the cause like this really means a lot; it is inspiring to see these young men willing to look beyond themselves as part of Team Hydro!”  

The Friars will contend for the Inter-Ac title again this season, and their coach Jay Schiller is delighted to get the campaign underway by challenging the boys to accomplish together something that was thought to be impossible for decades, while giving back to the world around them.  Peter will help out the Friars this fall as a volunteer assistant coach.

“As soon as I learned about Team Hydro and the ground-breaking research that Team Hydro is enabling, and the amazing cause I knew that it was something we had to be a part of,” said Coach Schiller. “Our team is hoping to be able to raise at least $5,000 towards the overall goal of $100,000!  The boys are looking forward to it, and I’ve decided to join them myself!”

Dr. Samuel Finlayson, MD, PhD, is a Team Hydro co-founder who helps direct Team Hydro’s peer-reviewed research grant process in conjunction with the Hydrocephalus Association. “At Team Hydro, we take our founding mission to help cure hydrocephalus very seriously”, he says. “This means directing every dollar donated for research into projects designed to uncover novel mechanisms of disease and/or to design and develop new treatments. It also means building up a research community by investing in up-and-coming researchers in the field to help them secure large follow-on grants from public and private organizations.” To date, this approach has been very successful: Team Hydro has funded a dozen research projects on three continents, which together have already identified several new potential therapies and secured >10x multiplier in follow-up funding from government agencies. “Seeing this next generation of athletes join the cause is a great reminder both of where we have come from, and all the excitement we have for work yet to come.”

100% of funds raised by the Team Hydro Swim for Hydrocephalus Research will go directly toward funding these important hydrocephalus research grants.

You can support the Friars and the cause by making a tax-deductible donation at:

Stanford Varsity Men’s Water Polo Joins with Team Hydro for Hydrocephalus Research

SAN FRANCISCO – Members of the Stanford men’s water polo program will join with the Team Hydro Foundation for the 19th Alcatraz Swim for Hydrocephalus Research on August 19th, 2023. The Cardinal will help lead the charge into the icy-cold waters off the notorious Alcatraz Island as part of its rigorous preseason training program leading into the 2023 campaign.

Hydrocephalus is a neurological condition impacting more than one million people in the United States. Sadly, this devastating condition led to the passing of Kate Finlayson – the sister of former Stanford water polo alumni, Peter and Sam Finlayson. There is currently no cure for the condition, with the only treatments requiring brain surgery.

“My brother and I both played water polo at Stanford in the early 2000s, so to see the Stanford water polo family rally around the cause like this really means a lot,” said Peter Finlayson, Co-Founder of Team Hydro. “Our sister Kate loved swimming, but unfortunately her life was cut short by hydrocephalus. To see these young men willing to look beyond themselves and support the cause like this is inspiring!”

Brian Flacks, entering his second season as the Dunlevie Family Director of Men’s Water Polo, couldn’t think of a better way to kick off the year than by challenging the team to accomplish together something long-thought to be impossible, while also making a difference.

“Making an impact in the world is what Stanford is all about. When I learned about Team Hydro and the ground-breaking research they are enabling, I knew that it was something we had to be a part of,” said Flacks. “Our team is hoping to be able to raise at least $15,000 towards the overall goal of $100,000. The entire team is swimming, and the boys couldn’t be any more excited!”

Dr. Samuel Finlayson, MD, PhD, is another Stanford alum and Team Hydro co-founder who helps direct Team Hydro’s peer-reviewed research grant process in conjunction with the Hydrocephalus Association. “At Team Hydro, we take our founding mission to help cure hydrocephalus very seriously,” he says. “This means directing every dollar donated for research into projects designed to uncover novel mechanisms of disease and/or to design and develop new treatments. It also means building up a research community by investing in up-and-coming researchers in the field to help them secure large follow-on grants from public and private organizations.”

To date, this approach has been very successful: Team Hydro has funded a dozen research projects on three continents, which together have already identified several new potential therapies and secured >10x multiplier in follow-up funding from government agencies.

“Seeing this next generation of athletes join the cause is a great reminder both of where we have come from, and all the excitement we have for work yet to come,” Finlayson added.

You can support the Cardinal and the cause by making a tax-deductible donation at:

If you would like to join a future Alcatraz crossing or host an event with your team at a neighborhood pool, please contact Peter Finlayson at

Team Hydro Researcher Receives Two Grants Totaling $11.3M from the DoD


Dr. Bonnie Blazer-Yost, Ph.D receives $11.3 MILLION from DoD to expand her research; Indiana University-Purdue University to establish dedicated Hydrocephalus Research Center!

Last year Team Hydro was proud to sponsor Dr. Blazer-Yost by funding an Innovator Award through the Hydrocephalus Association to study a new possible treatment for hydrocephalus  targeting a gene called TRPV4. Based on the results of this work, her team has now received a $7.8M Focused Program Award to test TRPV4 agonists in two rat models, and a $3.9M Expansion Award to test an oral TRPV4 agonist in a pig model. These projects and funding will be used to establish a new, permanent Hydrocephalus Research Center at her university. What a return on investment!

2022 wasn’t the first time Team Hydro provided essential funding to Dr. Blazer-Yost’s team.  In 2015, Team Hydro funded another grant to support her work studying the pharmacologic modulation of cerebrospinal fluid production.  She put these funds to fantastic use, producing results that helped uncover new insights into the molecular mechanisms behind CSF and Hydrocephalus and allowed her to receive a highly competitive, ~$1.3 million grant from the Department of Defense, so that she can develop her insights into potential pharmacologic therapies!   Where else can you see such dramatic impact of research dollars at work?

We caught up with Dr. Blazer-Yost to hear about what brought her into Hydrocephalus research and to learn more about her exciting vision for the future.


TEAM HYDRO:  You just shared with us some extraordinarily exciting news that you’d received BOTH the Focused Program Award and the Expansion Award from the DoD.  These awards were made possible in part by research conducted using the funds from Team Hydro grants.  Could you share a little bit more about the awards and what they will allow you to do?

DR. BLAZER-YOST:  Both awards represent collaborative research with multiple investigators. The Focused Program Award has 4 Principal Investigators and is shared equally between Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and Johns Hopkins University. The Hopkins investigators are Drs. Shenandoah Robinson and Lauren Jantzie; the IUPUI investigators are Dr. Teri Belecky- Adams and myself. At IUPUI we have a genetic rat model of hydrocephalus and are treating with the TRPV4 antagonist. At Hopkins the investigators have induced rat models of post- hemorrhagic and post traumatic hydrocephalus and they are treating with erythropoietin and melatonin, two anti-inflammatory and neurorestorative agents. With the grant we propose to try all treatments in all models and then explore the efficacy of triple co-therapy since all of the agents work differently. Each of the investigators will also have independent projects looking at sequalae of hydrocephalus such as vision changes, inflammatory and pain responses, and changes in brain tissue.

As part of the Focused Program Award, we proposed establishing a Hydrocephalus Research Center. One of the primary goals of the center is to catalyze interactions between investigators interested in hydrocephalus. Our preliminary discussions with clinicians and investigators at the Indiana University School of Medicine have been very positive and we hope to broaden the
utility of the center to investigators in other institutions around the world. We would like to be able to provide some support for students and junior scientists to cross-train in different disciplines as well as to bring established investigators together for in-depth discussions and cross-fertilization of ideas.

The Expansion Award, as the name suggests, is meant for investigators who have had previous DoD funding. This award is in collaboration with the Veterinary School of Purdue University to use a pig model of post-hemorrhagic hydrocephalus to test our TRPV4 antagonist as part of our progression toward drug development. This grant also contains a component using cultured cell
lines (human and pig) to study inflammatory mediators.

TEAM HYDRO: Prior to these two latest exciting awards, partially fueled by the data generated using that initial seed grant from Team Hydro, you were able to secure a remarkable $1M award from the DoD to continue further research. What did that first $1M DoD grant allow you to uncover?

DR. BLAZER-YOST:  The first DoD grant allowed us to make progress in several directions and to publish much of the work. We fully characterized the hydrocephalus in our rat model and completed a treatment with the potential candidate drug, a TRPV4 antagonist. These studies included MRIs and further studies of the brain tissues. We developed and characterized several mice models of hydrocephalus. We also characterized and studied what is called a continuous cell line of the choroid plexus epithelial cells, the cells in the brain that produce most of the cerebrospinal fluid. Continuous cell lines can be stored in liquid nitrogen and gotten out and used months or years later. The human choroid plexus cell line, while very difficult to grow, is valuable for studying how the drug works in just the cells of interest and is also important for the initial testing of new drug candidates. For example, this cell line allowed us to look at the effect of an SGK1 inhibitor which we are now exploring in animals with a new Team Hydro grant. Finally, we also looked at changes in other parts of the brain and obtained preliminary data for the next series of studies.

TEAM HYDRO:  Team Hydro provided you an additional grant last year to allow Preclinical Testing of SGK1 Inhibitor in hydrocephalus. What learnings did that research yield?

DR. BLAZER-YOST:  That grant allowed us to further develop some preliminary data regarding a new potential compound, an SGK1 inhibitor, and move the project to the point of publication (manuscript in review). The SGK1 inhibitor works on an enzyme in the biochemical pathway controlling TRPV4 activity. This is a novel compound provided by an Italian collaborator from my renal research days. Importantly, we are working to develop a formulation for this compound which would be compatible with human use. The inhibitor is very hard to get into solution and the solvent we use for injecting the rodents cannot be used in humans. I think we have found a useable formulation which we tested in rats as part of the Team Hydro funding. Early MRI results are encouraging. We have also collected tissue from the treated rats to determine whether changes that occur in hydrocephalus are reversed with the drug. Those studies are on-going.

TEAM HYDRO:  But even after all those remarkable findings, funding wasn’t easy to come by, and the path towards a drug in humans remained daunting — what obstacles did you face?

DR. BLAZER-YOST:   There are two major obstacles – funding and drug development. Funding is always an issue for scientists. Both of the large grants which we were fortunate enough to obtain recently represent 3-4 years of major grant writing. In each case we were turned down in two previous attempts – each one year apart. It is only because of the team effort of all the Investigators involved in responding to reviewer comments and scrambling to obtain additional preliminary data that we were ultimately successful.

Drug development is another whole story. After the pre-clinical animal studies, my expertise ends and this has to be turned over to a company for further development and clinical trials. Several things are necessary before pharmaceutical companies are interested. Importantly, the efficacy has to be shown in several rodent models and then, preferably, in a large animal model.
One of the grants will allow us to address the former and the second will provide funds for the latter. Even after all of that, there are many other aspects, unfortunately not all scientific, that determine whether a company will be interested in further development.

TEAM HYDRO: You’ve had a remarkable career and are an accomplished researcher. Could you share again a bit about yourself and your lab? In particular, as you continue in the day- to-day trenches of the lab, what is your motivating vision for future hydrocephalus patients?

DR. BLAZER-YOST:  I have always had a passion for science and that fascination continues to this day. As I tell my trainees as they are beginning their careers – research is not a 9 to 5 job. However, if one enjoys the challenge of this endeavor it is a very rewarding career. I thoroughly enjoy what I do and the brilliant people I get to work with. Science is a team effort, and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with trainees and colleagues at my home institution as well as those in other universities. Without that community of science support, it would be difficult to get through the “down” cycles in the trenches when nothing seems to work. If the studies we are doing can make a difference to the development of treatments for disease that makes all the time and effort so much more worthwhile. I am delighted to be contributing to hydrocephalus research and I would love to see the collective efforts of researchers have an impact on patient care.

TEAM HYDRO: You haven’t always been focused on hydrocephalus research and were once a kidney researcher. Could you relate again how you found your way into hydrocephalus research, and the role the 2015 Team Hydro grant played in that process?

DR. BLAZER-YOST:  Throughout my career I have studied the regulation of biochemical processes that control electrolyte and water balance which are important to maintain health of every organ in the body. The majority of my years in research have been in the kidney field studying hormonal influences on electrolyte transport proteins with a view toward understanding and treating hypertension, the renal components of metabolic syndrome/obesity and polycystic kidney disease. While I was studying polycystic kidney disease, one of the drugs we were testing in rat models brought me to the hydrocephalus field. One of the rat models had both polycystic kidney disease and hydrocephalus. Because we knew quite a bit about the biochemical mechanisms involved in polycystic kidney disease, we postulated an electrolyte channel called transient receptor potential, vanilloid 4 (TRPV4) would have an effect on that disease. As it turned out, there was little effect on the kidney in the model we were using but a substantial effect on the development of the hydrocephalus. This was a very interesting finding that was hard to ignore so a colleague and I were lucky enough to get some internal university funding in the way of a small pilot grant from the Radiology Department at the Indiana University School of Medicine to do a few MRIs to prove what we were seeing in changes of rodent head sizes was real. Unfortunately, during those studies, my colleague passed away from cancer. I inherited the rat model and the project.

Although I was involved in a clinical study of patients with polycystic kidney disease, I decided to see if we could get funding to continue the hydrocephalus research. I was very fortunate in that Team Hydro funded our grant application which is what allowed us to continue and expand these preliminary studies.

TEAM HYDRO:  One thing that has always been clear in talking with you, Dr. Blazer-Yost, is your relentless commitment to seeing hydrocephalus research translate into impactful new treatments for patients. What is your current state of optimism about that goal? What does that path look like going forward?

DR. BLAZER-YOST:  I am very optimistic about the path forward. The Hydrocephalus Association supports scientific meetings within the hydrocephalus research community and it is at those meetings that I have had the pleasure of getting to know colleagues who are all working toward the same goal. It was at one those meetings that I first met Drs. Jantzie and Robinson. Our shared interests and collaboration has lead, over a period of about 5 years now, to the Focused Program award.

During these meetings, and then in the scientific literature, it is clear that the number of basic and clinical researchers devoting their efforts to hydrocephalus research has increased enormously in the last 5 years and many of these investigators are applying a wide range of approaches to this field. With this diverse approach it is more likely that major breakthroughs will happen. However, I must temper these comments with the reality of drug development which is costly and time consuming and often fails for the wrong reasons. Despite this, we will keep moving forward.

TEAM HYDRO: We are absolutely thrilled you and your team have committed yourselves to hydrocephalus research, and so see the progress you’re making. Could you comment for our donors on the important role that Team Hydro grants played in the research process, and how they allowed you to unlock these larger awards? In other words, why should people donate to Team Hydro? :).

DR. BLAZER-YOST:  I hope that my journey into hydrocephalus research underscores the need for funding for “high risk” projects. Because many of these projects fail, the large funding agencies devote little money to any projects that do not have substantial preliminary data to indicate the studies are likely to be successful. However, some of the most exciting advances in science are the result of failed hypotheses. Having the ability to follow those failed hypotheses (as I did) in risky projects often leads in unexpected directions and wonderful new discoveries. Team Hydro has supported my research through some risky endeavors and I know that you do similar things for other investigators. One cannot underestimate the importance of this type of funding in moving science forward and this is a very important contribution to the overall progress toward better treatments.

TEAM HYDRO: Is there anything else you’d like to share with Team Hydro supporters?

DR. BLAZER-YOST:  The funding that Team Hydro provided had a huge impact on my research at a critical time. I think it is also important to recognize the founders, the amazing Finlayson family, who I have come to know over the years. Their interest, enthusiasm and cheerleading are a constant reminder to so many of us that there is a very important goal at the end of all of these studies.  [editor’s note: The Finlaysons are so humbled by the success of the research Team Hydro has enabled, and is SO GRATEFUL to Bonnie for her relentless work in the lab, and to our many swimmers and supports who make funding these grants possible!]

Dr. Blazer-Yost’s work is a perfect example of everything we hope to achieve in supporting research through Team Hydro:  Not only does her work hit straight at the heart of Hydrocephalus on a molecular level, with exciting promise for non-invasive therapies, but it also has brought a new set of brilliant minds into the field of Hydrocephalus research, and laid a foundation for future breakthroughs and meaningful progress for patients for years to come.

But there still remains much to be done!  At Team Hydro, we are committed to supporting the next wave of researchers seeking to understand and cure this neglected yet terrible disease.  Let’s keep pushing!

Go Team Hydro!  Together we can CURE hydrocephalus!


Team Hydro’s Braves Alcatraz for 18th Time

The Team Hydro Foundation will host the 18th Alcatraz Swim for Hydrocephalus Research on August 13th, 2022.  This year ~40 Team Hydro swimmers will once again brave the bay in hopes of helping drive progress towards a cure.

Dr. Samuel Finlayson, MD, PhD, is a Team Hydro co-founder and Chief Medical Officer.  “At Team Hydro, we take our founding mission to help cure hydrocephalus very seriously,” he says. “This means directing every dollar donated for research into projects designed to uncover novel mechanisms of disease and/or to design and develop new treatments.  It also means building up a research community by investing in up-and-coming researchers in the field to help them secure large follow-on grants from public and private organizations.” 

To date, this approach has been very successful: Team Hydro has funded a dozen research projects on three continents, which together have already identified several new potential therapies and secured a 7x multiplier in follow-up funding from government agencies.  “Seeing this next generation of athletes join the cause is a great reminder both of where we have come from, and all the excitement we have for work yet to come.”

100% of funds raised by the Team Hydro Swim for Hydrocephalus Research will go directly toward funding these important hydrocephalus research grants. 

There are still a few spots remaining in the swim; interested swimmers can register at  And if you aren’t quite brave (dumb?) enough to take the plunge, you can donate to the cause using that same link!

What will YOU do…?

The Choose Your Own Adventure Challenge!

COVID has stopped a lot this year, but it hasn’t stopped hydrocephalus.
We still need a cure

Get creative. Get determined. Make a difference.

You could run.  Swim.  Walk.  Do push-ups. Pledge to read a certain number of books. Or just make a donation — and invite others to chip in as well!  It doesn’t matter WHAT you do, so long as you do it for the 1 million Americans living with hydrocephalus! 
It really couldn’t be simpler:
  1. Set a goal for yourself to achieve
  2. Share your goal (and about the cause!) on social media and with friends/family
  3. Donate what you can to the cause, and invite friends/family to do the same
Find Out More

See examples of what folks are doing HERE

Choose Your Own Adventure!

Nina ran a half marathon for hydrocephalus research. What will YOU do this month?

Coronavirus forced us to cancel all our 2020 Group Swim Events – but hydrocephalus patients and researchers need support now more than ever!  That is why we are pleased to announce this ‘choose your own adventure’ event.  Contribute and get involved HERE!

Just set a goal that you will accomplish between now and August 29th (the intended date of our Alcatraz Swim).  You could run.  Swim.  Walk.  Do push-ups. Pledge to read a certain number of books.  Lose some weight. It doesn’t matter WHAT you do — so long as you are doing it in the name of the 1million Americans (and countless worldwide) afflicted with hydrocephalus.

For example, Pam “Gramma” Finlayson is determined that she will swim the combined lengths of Upper and Lower Suncook Lakes — nearly TWICE the distance of the Alcatraz Swim! Nina will train for and run a half marathon!  Peter is committed to shedding 10 lbs.  Get creative, get determined, and make a difference.  

Once you’ve set the goal, reach out to friends and family and post the link to this page on social media asking for support.  100% of funds raised go to hydrocephalus research.

Make a donation yourself to get the ball rolling, and then you’re off to the (virtual) races!  🙂 

Another million dollar research update! Q&A with Dr. Jennifer Strahle

Team Hydro is incredibly proud to announce an exciting research update!

Dr. Jennifer Strahle, recipient of a 2016 Innovator Award from Team Hydro, has been awarded a $2.4 million dollar grant from the NIH to work on Hydrocephalus. This award is a direct result of the data she generated using funds from Team Hydro and the Hydrocephalus Association, and is yet another example of our research investment thesis in action.

To learn more about Dr. Strahle and her research, see our interview with her below.


Dr. Jennifer Strahle is a practicing neurosurgeon and the current director of the Pediatric Neuro Spine Program at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.  She is also an assistant professor at the Washington University School of Medicine, where she runs her own research laboratory.

In 2016, Team Hydro was proud to sponsor Dr. Strahle by funding an Innovator Award to investigate the role of iron in mediating ventricular injury in posthemorrhagic hydrocephalus. This seed grant has now born fruit, as the data it produced has resulted in a $2.4 million dollar follow-on grant from the National Institutes of Health.

We caught up with Dr. Strahle to hear about what brought her into Hydrocephalus research and to learn more about the exciting work going on in her lab.

TEAM HYDRO: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us!  Amongst our grantees, you are one of a few who has opted for a dual-career as both a physician and a researcher.  What made you want to become a surgeon-scientist?

Dr. Strahle:  I have always had a fascination with the brain, dating back to my days as a neuroscience major in college. After college, I worked for two years in a research lab studying Alzheimer’s disease. Although I greatly enjoyed this work and felt like I had the potential to make a difference in people’s lives, it seemed that becoming a surgeon-scientist would allow me to be maximally impactful – being able to directly improve the lives of children with brain diseases while discovering new ways to treat or prevent these same diseases in my lab.

TEAM HYDRO:  What motivates you to work on hydrocephalus specifically?

Dr. Strahle:  Over the course of my lifetime, we have seen tremendous progress in cancer care, treatment of heart attacks, and organ transplantation. Yet hydrocephalus care has remained largely unchanged for the past fifty years. As a pediatric neurosurgeon, I see first-hand the devastating toll that hydrocephalus has on children and their families, and the enormous potential that improving care for these children can have for generations.

TEAM HYDRO:  You certainly don’t have to convince us on that point!  Thank you for working on this much under-appreciated condition. Could you tell us a bit about your current work in St. Louis?

Dr. Strahle:  I split my time roughly equally between my pediatric neurosurgical practice at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and my lab at Washington University School of Medicine. In the lab, we are studying the role of cilia, tiny hair-like structures that line the ventricles, in the development of hydrocephalus after neonatal intraventricular hemorrhage. We are first seeking to more clearly understand the ways that the initial bleed leads to hydrocephalus, after which we hope to develop ways to minimize or prevent the damage to the underlying brain. My clinical practice focuses on hydrocephalus, brain tumors, and diseases of the spine. Running between the operating room, the clinic, and my lab can make for some hectic days, but the synergies between the different components of my job are energizing and make for a wonderful career.

TEAM HYDRO: What challenges do you see as a surgeon treating patients with hydrocephalus?

Dr. Strahle:  As with any illness affecting very young infants, I view the most challenging part as helping patients and families cope with all the unknowns – infancy is a challenging time under the best of circumstances, and hydrocephalus specifically can be unpredictably variable in a way that causes enormous stress on families. From a more tangible perspective, having a shunt placed with the possibility of multiple revisions is a very real challenge for many children. My goal as a researcher is to eliminate the need for shunts for as many children with hydrocephalus as possible.

TEAM HYDRO:  Eliminating the need for shunts is truly the ultimate dream in this field.  As we work towards that goal, what are some of the big opportunities you see for future hydrocephalus research?

Dr. Strahle:  As I alluded to above, the major opportunity in hydrocephalus research is to develop preventive treatments to eliminate or minimize the development of hydrocephalus. Our hydrocephalus researchers at Washington University are studying multiple mechanisms – iron metabolism, cilia injury, ependymal injury, and neural cell migration to name a few – that all likely play some role in the development of hydrocephalus and its coincident injuries. I don’t yet know which one of these pathways could ultimately lead to a cure for some or all children who would otherwise develop hydrocephalus, but I truly believe we will get there during my career.

TEAM HYDRO: Wonderful. One last question for our readers and donors: could you comment briefly on the role that grants like your Innovator Award play exciting new labs like yours?

Dr. Strahle:  Support from the Innovator Award has been instrumental in allowing my lab to obtain preliminary data to apply for extramural NIH funding. With this initial support, we were able to identify several novel therapeutic targets within the iron handling pathway. This will be the focus of our upcoming areas of investigation and our NIH grant.

TEAM HYDRO: We sure are proud and grateful to be supporting researchers like you, Dr. Strahle!  Thank you so much for all your work, and we look forward to continuing to follow your exciting career moving forward.  

Learn more about the grants we sponsor at, and donate today at

Team Hydro Set to Conquer Two Coasts in Back to Back September Swims!

Labor day weekend may mark the end of summer for many folks, but for TEAM HYDRO it marks the beginning of two amazing events aimed at raising Awareness and Research funds to combat Hydrocephalus!

First up, on September 1 the Team will once again enter the icy waters of the SF Bay and Escape Alcatraz in the 2nd Annual Team Hydro Swim For Hydrocephalus! As most know, the Team already participated in the Sharkfest Alcatraz swim back in June of this year. But the work we are doing cant stop there while people are still suffering from this devastating condition — so we will hit the water again.  This Alcatraz Swim, produced by and for Team Hydro, will certainly prove once again to be an exciting and inspiring event as one and all join together to fund hydrocephalus research.  Team Members will range in age from teens to septuagenarians, and include NCAA champions as well as swimmers living with hydrocephalus.  Swimmers will meet at 8:15am, and 0nland supporters can expect to see swimmers reaching the beach at Aquatic Park beginning around 10:30am.  We cant wait to see you in San Francisco on Sept 1!

Raising research funds is the mission of Team Hydro so swimmers, volunteers, and on-land supporters alike have been working hard to acquire donations in support of their Swim for Hydrocephalus.  Thanks to the generosity of Genentech and other private funding, 100% of these donations (along with all registration fees collected) will go directly to fund hydrocephalus Research!  

Following the Alcatraz Swim, Team Hydro members will gather across the continent the very next week, to cross the Boston Harbor on September 9th!  Joining this swim will be students and professors from Harvard and MIT, family members of people living with hydrocephalus, and even a grandmother.  

Team Hydro is working so hard in order to fully fund more important research aimed a finding a cure for this condition.  Hydrocephalus is the cause of more children’s brain surgeries than any other condition, and affects people of all ages from infants to oldest adults!

Can you help us FUND a CURE?  PLEASE donate here!!