ALS Researcher Living With ALS Continues to Work Toward a Cure

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!

Dr. Rahul Desikan is incredible. He’s a prominent researcher of neurodegenerative diseases, including ALS, as well as a loyal husband, father, son, and friend. And on February 17, 2017, in a cruel twist of fate, he became a person with ALS.

Dr. Desikan entered the research and medical field at Boston University in Massachusetts, obtaining both his M.D. and Ph.D. He then completed his diagnostic radiology residency at University of California, San Diego (UCSD) before moving on to University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) for his neuroradiology fellowship.

In the fall of 2016, after years of hard work, he was offered an assistant professorship, along with his own research lab, at UCSF.

Continue reading ALS Researcher Living With ALS Continues to Work Toward a Cure

The ALS Association Partners with GNS Healthcare to Apply Artificial Intelligence to Accelerate Answer ALS Research

August marks a month-long opportunity to raise awareness and move closer to a world without ALS. 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, every research project funded, every discovery made, every piece of legislation passed, and every story shared – it all adds up!

We recently announced that we’re providing new funding to allow GNS Healthcare to use artificial intelligence (AI) to create a comprehensive disease model to advance research into ALS. GNS Healthcare will use its powerful machine learning platform, called REFS, in conjunction with the rich Answer ALS patient datasets, which are accessible to clinicians and scientists throughout the ALS research community. The project will be led by Dr. Iya Khalil, chief commercial officer and co-founder of GNS Healthcare.

Answer ALS, under the leadership of Dr. Jeffrey Rothstein, executive director for the Answer ALS Research Program, is collecting data from 1,000 people with ALS to build a comprehensive picture of the disease that includes clinical, genetic, molecular, and biochemical information that is openly shared with the global ALS research community. Together, this information will yield thousands of petabytes of new ALS-specific information that requires analysis. Continue reading The ALS Association Partners with GNS Healthcare to Apply Artificial Intelligence to Accelerate Answer ALS Research

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.

Continue reading How The ALS Association Speeds Innovation by Globally Funding ALS Research

Dr. Marka Van Blitterswijk: ALS Researcher Focused on Discovering Biomarkers for the C9orf72 Gene Mutation

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.

Dr. Marka Van Blitterswijk from the Mayo Clinic Jacksonville is a scientist and one of our former Milton Safenowitz postdoctoral fellows. Since moving on from the program, she has established her own ALS lab as an assistant professor. We recently awarded her a prestigious multi-year grant surrounding her biomarker work.

Today, we sit down with Dr. Van Blitterswijk to hear about her latest work in ALS biomarkers, focused on the most common gene mutation in ALS, called C9orf72. We are thrilled to see her career and ALS research efforts thrive.

Continue reading Dr. Marka Van Blitterswijk: ALS Researcher Focused on Discovering Biomarkers for the C9orf72 Gene Mutation

Milton Safenowitz Postdoctoral Fellows Come Together to Share Innovative Ideas

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.

The ALS Association is proud to have supported the development of bright, young scientists through the Milton Safenowitz Postdoctoral Fellowship program since 2004. The Safenowitz family, through our Greater New York Chapter, founded the program in memory of Milton Safenowitz, who died of ALS in 1998.

On June 21, our newest class of Milton Safenowitz Postdoctoral Fellowship awardees came together for a bi-annual symposium in New York City. The fellows were joined by four established researchers –Dr. Sandrine DaCruz from University of California San Diego, Dr. Tania Gendron from the Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, Dr. Timothy Miller from Washington University St. Louis, and Dr. Hemali Phatnani from the Center for Genomics of Neurodegenerative Disease (CGND) at the New York Genome Center – who gave advice on each fellow’s work.

Dr. DaCruz and Dr. Gendron are former Milton Safenowitz fellows who are now highly regarded ALS researchers running their own ALS labs.

Dr. Timothy Miller was the keynote speaker at the luncheon. He gave an overview of his work in ALS genetics and biomarkers (a substance you can measure in the body that changes over time).

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2018 marks the 20th anniversary year of Milton’s passing, and we were honored to be joined by the Safenowitz family to mark the occasion. Marilyn Safenowitz, Milton’s wife and matriarch of the family, which now includes nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild, proudly handed out the fellowship awards to our new class during the luncheon.

And Ryan Levine, Milton’s grandson, gave a moving speech about his grandfather, describing him as a person who “people should emulate because of the empathy and love that he exuded and his dedication to help others.”

Milton Safenowitz Group Shot

The ALS Association provides the only postdoctoral fellowship program specifically tailored toward supporting first-year postdoctoral fellows in the ALS field, made possible by the generous support of the Safenowitz family and donors across the globe, including support from many of our chapters and the ALS Ride For Life.

The Association understands that attracting bright, young scientists to enter and then remain in ALS research is essential to moving the field forward. Our Milton Safenowitz Postdoctoral Fellowship awards were created specifically to encourage and facilitate promising new scientists to enter the ALS field.

The pathway for a postdoctoral fellow to attain their own laboratory at an academic institution is long and difficult. According to the journal Nature, people remain a postdoc for as many as five years with a relatively low salary, and many fellows become discouraged by the prospect of life in academia and, instead, take positions in industry or abandon careers in research altogether.

The ALS Association is committed to turning the tables on these statistics. Through mentorship and resources provided by our Milton Safenowitz Postdoctoral Fellowship program, over 90 percent of award recipients finish their fellowships and start their own ALS laboratories.

That means the program not only increases the pool of bright young researchers in the fight against ALS, but also balloons the number and quality of innovative ideas across the research pipeline.

Since its founding, the program has proudly sponsored 64 postdoctoral fellows have published over 167 publications in top journals. All of our fellows are and have been regular presenters at major scientific meetings.

Our Milton Safenowitz Postdoctoral Fellowship program gives young scientists the opportunity to obtain invaluable experience through the development of high-quality papers, collection of data, and support of applications for further funding from the Association, the National Institutes of Health, and other sources.

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Safenowitz fellows come into the laboratory with innovative ideas that give fresh perspectives on ongoing work. Funding from The ALS Association allows Safenowitz fellow to effectively test those ideas to produce brilliant work and publications in top scientific journals.

Safenowitz fellows also leverage funding from the Association to establish their own ALS research laboratories, where they continue to move their ideas toward potential treatments, as well as mentor other bright, young ALS researchers.

Our fellowships also provide fundamental mentorship to young scientists through relationships with their own mentors and partnerships with other ALS researchers.

Donate now to help us support more innovative, collaborative work to help advance research and care for people living with ALS and their families.

Don’t miss out on doubling your impact! This is a critical time to donate since our corporate partner, Biohaven Pharmaceuticals, is matching all gifts up to a total of $25,000! Biohaven is committed to supporting innovation to help improve the lives of all people impacted by ALS.

To learn more about Biohaven’s commitment to advances in ALS and other neurological diseases, click here.

Collaboration is at Our Core…and Spurring Innovation Along the Way

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.

Since our founding in 1985, we have put collaboration at the forefront of everything we do. The gift of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in August 2014 gave us the unique opportunity to up our game in establishing innovative research partnerships around the world.

We continue to foster those partnerships throughout the ALS community today. Our partnerships span to all areas, from academic institutions and researchers, to industry (biotech and pharmaceutical) partners, to government organizations, to other nonprofit organizations.

Continue reading Collaboration is at Our Core…and Spurring Innovation Along the Way

New Review Focuses on the Connection of Disturbances in RNA-Binding Proteins to ALS

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.

In the May 2018 issue of Frontiers in Neuroscience, current The ALS Association-funded researchers, Drs. J. Paul Taylor and Maria Purice of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, published a comprehensive mini-review describing disease pathways that cause ALS, with a focus on mutations in RNA-binding proteins.

Many recent innovations in ALS animal and cells models that were instrumental in understanding the role of RNA-binding proteins in ALS are described.

Dr. Purice is a current Milton Safenowitz fellow who is currently studying how molecular pathways lead to both inherited (in which researchers have identified mutated ALS genes) and sporadic (non-inherited) forms of ALS, with a focus on RNA-binding protein, TDP-43.

In this review, Drs. Purice and Taylor do a deep dive into how disturbances in RNA-binding proteins, including TDP-43, cause ALS.

Continue reading New Review Focuses on the Connection of Disturbances in RNA-Binding Proteins to ALS