The ALS Association Research Department is pleased to show their research dollars in action. Two new papers that were recently published in high impact scientific journals Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and Cell were supported by The ALS Association. The first paper by Drs. Zuoshang Xu and John Landers from University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass., demonstrates a novel profilin 1 (PFN1) mouse model that displays disease characteristics similar to human disease. This paper underscores the importance of developing novel animal models to understand ALS disease processes and to discover new therapeutic targets. The second paper by Dr. J. Paul Taylor and colleagues from St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. reveals a new disease mechanism involving the C9ORF72 expansion mutation that will be targeted for ALS therapy.
Center for Genomics of Neurodegenerative Disease, New York Genome Center – By Dr. Hemali Phatnani
Through donations from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, The ALS Association is supporting strategic initiatives that emphasize collaboration, data sharing and state-of-the-art scientific methods. Here we feature the Center for Genomics of Neurodegenerative Disease (CGND) at the New York Genome Center (NYGC). Meet Dr. Hemali Phatnani and learn about how the CGND at the NYGC is making a huge impact on ALS research.
In August 2015, The Association committed $3.5 million from money raised through the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to the Genomic Translation for ALS Care (GTAC), a collaborative nationwide precision medicine initiative through Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and Biogen, which is being led by Dr. Matthew Harms. GTAC is actively enrolling now (scroll to the bottom for more details) with the ultimate goal of ensuring the genetic characterization of all people living with ALS.
“There are several exciting aspects of the GTAC study,” said Dr. Harms. “On a larger scale than ever before, this study will combine the genomes, gene expression profile and clinical symptoms of a patient to look for shared factors among patients with ALS. We hope this information will allow us to design more successful clinical trials and eventually design personalized therapies for patients. The GTAC study also plans to return genetic findings to its participants, allowing them to learn about how their genes might be contributing to their disease.”
Continue reading One of the Nation’s Largest ALS Precision Medicine Initiative Now Enrolling
Today, a new disease pathway for C9orf72-related ALS was revealed in journal Neuron in a study led by principle investigator Dr. Fen-Biao Gao from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass. The research team found that the C9orf72 expansion leads to DNA damage, signifying another potential ALS therapeutic target. The ALS Association supported this encouraging study that also included current and past Milton Safenowitz Postdoctoral Fellows Dr. Dejun Yang (2015 recipient) and Dr. Helene Tran (2012 recipient).
Pictured above: Dr. Gao’s laboratory team
“Our ALS Association grant on iPSC models of ALS (2013–2016) played a key role in this study. In fact, this grant helped us accomplish much more than what we proposed in the initial application, because our research moves forward quickly. For instance, this grant also helped us on the studies of nucleocytoplasmic transport defects and the beneficial effects of Spt4 knockdown in iPSC-derived patient neurons with C9ORF72 repeat expansions (Freibaum*, Lu* et al., Nature 2015; Kramer et al., Science 2016).” – Dr. Gao, Principle Investigator
Following up on our June 2016 blog post about edaravone, an intravenous drug therapy produced by Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation, locally based in Jersey City, N.J., with a head office in Osaka, Japan, there has been recent news as to the status of the drug in the U.S.
At the end of August 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accepted a New Drug Application (NDA) for edaravone, which has been used to treat stroke victims in Japan for the last twenty years. In a phase II clinical trial of edaravone, in a sub-group of people with ALS in Japan, researchers found a statistically significant improvement in the ALS Function Rating Scale-Revise. Edaravone works by getting rid of toxic by-products generated in cells, which is thought to protect against oxidative stress.
An “NDA” includes a comprehensive overview of a drug, including results and data analysis for the entire clinical development program and earlier preclinical testing, as well as the proposed labeling and manufacturing plans of the new drug.
This is extremely positive news for the ALS community, as acceptance of the NDA is the final stage of the development and approval process. Moreover, this is the first time that the FDA has ever accepted an NDA without first requiring an Investigational New Drug Application (IND), something that would have delayed the delivery of edaravone by many years. We appreciate the FDA for taking this step to help speed the approval of a potential ALS therapy. If approved, edaravone would be commercialized under the brand name Radicava™
While the company requested “priority review” for edaravone, which would have meant a six-month review time, the FDA accepted the application with a standard ten-month review. This means that a decision on the application is expected by June, 2017 based on timelines set by the Prescription Drug User Fee Act. This does not mean that the review will take the full ten months or preclude the FDA from acting sooner. We have been in contact with our colleagues at the FDA to reiterate the urgent need to move forward as quickly as possible.
The ALS Association joins the ALS community in urging a timely review of edaravone so that, if approved, it becomes available to people living with ALS as soon as possible. Every day makes a difference to people and their families fighting this disease. This truly is an exciting development for the ALS community, as it’s only the third potential ALS drug in history to advance this far in the drug development process (Riluzole and Myotrophin were the first two).
Researchers supported by The ALS Association announced that they had identified a new protein called SUPT4H1 that has potential to be used in therapy development for people whose ALS is caused by the C9orf72 gene. This research was published in the journal Science by Drs. Aaron Gitler at Stanford University in Stanford, California and Leonard Petrucelli at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. Read on to learn more about this latest discovery.
Drs. Gitler and Petrucelli targeted SUPT4H1 since it was shown that reducing its presence decreases the production of proteins containing long repeat expansions associated with another neurodegenerative disease, Huntington’s disease. However, reduction of SUPT4H1 did not affect expression of normal, non-expanded proteins. Continue reading Researchers Identify a New Therapeutic Target for C9orf72-Associated ALS
Over the last day, The ALS Association has received multiple questions surrounding the NEK1 gene discovery and how it affects people living with ALS. Below are some common questions and our answers, along with places to read more information.
Are NEK1 mutations associated with both familial (inherited) and sporadic (non-inherited) ALS?
Yes – NEK1 mutations are associated with both familial and sporadic ALS. Together, NEK1 is associated with 3% of all ALS cases.
How is the NEK1 gene inherited?
Currently, researchers do not know how the NEK1 gene is inherited, its penetrance (i.e. the proportion of individuals with the NEK1 mutation that show ALS symptoms) or whether the mutation is sufficient alone to cause disease. Researchers are now working diligently to answer these significant questions.
Most familial ALS genes are autosomal dominant for inheritance, meaning that the parent who has a genetic change (mutation) that causes ALS has a 50% chance of passing that mutation to each of his or her children. It is also important to understand that if a person inherits the genetic change, the person is not certain to develop ALS symptoms. Continue reading NEK1 Discovery: Questions and Answers