Meet Dr. Don Cleveland: Prominent ALS Researcher Who Pioneered Antisense Technology

Our Every Drop Adds Up campaign builds on the idea that people coming together for a common goal can make the impossible happen, just as it did four summers ago when the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge soaked the world. Every person helped, research project funded, story shared, discovery made, piece of legislation passed, and auction bid placed – it all adds up!

By the beginning of 2019, three trials are slated to be underway to help develop antisense therapy for people with ALS, dividends on a bold investment The ALS Association made in 2004, when the technology was new. We sat down with Dr. Don Cleveland, a pioneer in the field, for the second part of our series highlighting antisense technology.

Dr. Cleveland, professor at the University of California, San Diego’s Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, is a long-time funded ALS researcher. He has been working with The ALS Association since 2004 to develop DNA-based designer drugs to silence ALS genes, called antisense gene silencing or antisense technology.

In 1999, The ALS Association, along with the American Academy of Neurology, awarded Dr. Cleveland with the prestigious Sheila Essey Award for his significant contributions to research. He was recently awarded the $3 million prestigious 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for his numerous accomplishments in neurodegenerative disease research, including establishing antisense therapy in animal models of ALS.

He talked with us to discuss this important gene silencing technology that currently targets inherited ALS genes and could be potentially applied to non-inherited (sporadic) ALS in the future.

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The ALS Association’s Early Investment in Antisense Technology Is Having a Real Impact

Our Every Drop Adds Up campaign builds on the idea that people coming together for a common goal can make the impossible happen, just as it did four summers ago when the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge soaked the world. Every person helped, research project funded, story shared, discovery made, piece of legislation passed, and auction bid placed – it all adds up!

When Dr. Timothy Miller and his colleagues from Washington University in St. Louis published preclinical data in The Journal of Clinical Investigation last month, showing how second-generation antisense drugs were effective in ALS mouse and rat models, it served as a vivid reminder that every research investment and discovery adds up.

Antisense technology, which The ALS Association has supported from the beginning, represents one of the most promising potential treatments for ALS. The goal is to prevent the production of the toxic proteins by preventing them from being created in the first place. Toxic proteins kill motor neurons, the cells that primarily die in ALS, leading to muscle weakness and, eventually, paralysis.

Doing so could slow or stop disease progression in people living with ALS. Specifically, an antisense drug selectively targets and binds to the mutated messenger RNA linked with ALS and prevents toxic proteins from being made.

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The ALS Association and Teva Grant Two Awards as part of Teva CNS Target Identification Crowdsourcing Challenge

The ALS Association and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (“Teva”) have announced the recipients of the TEVA CNS Target Identification Crowdsourcing Challenge awards for their outstanding proposals to identify novel ALS targets. The two awards will be granted to Dr. Philip Wong, along with Dr. Jonathan C. Grima and Dr. Jeffrey D. Rothstein, all from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.

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How The ALS Association Speeds Innovation by Globally Funding ALS Research

Innovation plays a key role in The ALS Association’s fight to develop treatments and a cure for ALS and to empower people living with the disease to live their lives to the fullest. Throughout June and July, we have celebrated some of the key innovations helping us change the nature of ALS forever.

Research funded by The ALS Association helped develop the first mouse model that specifically expresses poly(GR), a type of dipeptide repeat protein associated with C9orf72, which uncovered a new ALS disease pathway. Dr. Leonard Petrucelli’s group at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, recently published the research in Nature Medicine.

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Memory Boxes Help Kids Impacted by ALS Cope with Loss

Innovation plays a key role in The ALS Association’s fight to develop treatments and a cure for ALS and to empower people living with the disease to live their lives to the fullest. During June and July, we are celebrating some of the key innovations helping us change the nature of ALS forever.

A diagnosis of ALS takes its toll in many ways. The person living with ALS eventually loses the ability to move, eat, speak, and breathe. But the effects of this disease don’t end there. Witnessing a loved one’s experience and being a caregiver have profound effects on family members and children, too.

Thankfully, your support helps give hope and provide compassionate care.

For example, The ALS Association St. Louis Regional Chapter provides one-on-one counseling for kids of all ages affected by ALS. The chapter recently expanded the program by providing hand-carved Circle of Life Boxes to every child living with a person with ALS who is registered with the chapter.

These “memory boxes” are used as part of grief work and counseling to help capture feelings surrounding loss.

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The ALS Association Goes Above and Beyond to Provide Transportation Access

Innovation plays a key role in The ALS Association’s fight to develop treatments and a cure for ALS and to empower people living with the disease to live their lives to the fullest. During June and July, we are celebrating some of the key innovations helping us change the nature of ALS forever.

Your generosity supports the ALS community from every angle. Not only do your contributions help to further research for a cure, but they also strengthen advocacy and provide compassionate care to people living with ALS right now.

One aspect of care you may not have considered before is travel and transportation. ALS makes any kind of travel much more complicated, even local trips most of us take for granted, like going to the movies or visiting relatives.

To make sure our community gets services that enhance quality of life, The ALS Association provides guidance around travel while living with ALS as well as direct transportation resources.

The ALS Association Georgia Chapter recently went above and beyond to provide such support through access to reliable transportation. Their pioneering Paul B. Williams Transportation Program was launched on October 1, 2017, and has since fulfilled requests for non-emergency trips to ALS medical clinic appointments, as well as non-medical and personal trips.

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Telemedicine With a Twist Serves More People in Rural Areas

Innovation plays a key role in The ALS Association’s fight to develop treatments and a cure for ALS and to empower people living with the disease to live their lives to the fullest. During June and July, we are celebrating some of the key innovations helping us change the nature of ALS forever.

People living with ALS and their families need a great number of care services. We use innovative technology and partnerships to help fill the gaps in care for underserved populations and connect people with ALS to opportunities for greater quality of life.

Our Mid-America Chapter has developed a program that takes access to care a step further, while also incorporating research elements.

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