MSD and Francis Crick Institute Teaming Up for Better Understanding of ALS

MSD and Francis Crick Institute Teaming Up for Better Understanding of ALS

Pharmaceutical company MSD and the Francis Crick Institute are partnering to try to learn more about what causes motor neurone disease (MND), also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), so that treatments may be developed.

Funded by MSD and the Medical Research Council, the project is the first under a five-year agreement between MSD and the London-based biomedical discovery institute to find out more about particularly complex disorders such as ALS.

Current ALS treatments cannot cure or undo damage the disease causes, but can slow disease progression and increase patient comfort and independence.

“In the clinic, it’s devastating when I have to tell a patient they have motor neurone disease,” Rickie Patani, MD, project leader and a Crick and University College London (UCL) research group leader, said in a press release. “Often, the patient first walks in with mild weakness in a limb, and then I see the disease progressing relentlessly with every visit. Within a year or two, they might be in a wheelchair and require breathing support. This disease destroys families, and I feel profoundly guilty that we still have no effective treatments to offer.”

The near-term goal is to understand the disorder’s fundamental biology. That alone could offer patients solace, Patani said, even when no promising therapies loom.

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“I am excited to start our new collaboration with MSD, which we hope will give us a comprehensive understanding of the earliest events that cause motor neurone disease. This is a unique science-led partnership, driven by our shared commitment to helping patients in the long term,” he said.

The effort is intended to capitalize on earlier work by Patani’s team, which pinpointed essential mechanisms able to destroy motor neurons in patients. By examining patients’ skin cell-derived neurons, the scientists hope to gain knowledge that could lead to identification of prospective treatment targets.

“I am hopeful that this collaboration could produce groundbreaking research which will ultimately change how we treat a broad spectrum of diseases in the future,” said Fiona Marshall, vice president, head of discovery science at MSD United Kingdom. “This collaboration is a great example of the opportunities that can arise from a thriving life science community when doors and minds are open.”

The project is unconventional in that it takes a multidisciplinary approach, involving academic, clinical, and industry research and calling for neurologist Patani to work with Crick, UCL, and MSD researchers.

“When outstanding scientists in industry and academia work together, it creates a great opportunity to accelerate discoveries that can improve human health,” said Fiona Watt, executive chair of the Medical Research Council.

One of the Crick’s founding partners, the Medical Research Council works to improve the health of U.K. residents through education and research support. Established in 2015, Crick’s goal is to understand the fundamental underlying biology of diseases.

“There is so much we don’t know about neurodegeneration, and working together from such an early stage will help us to build knowledge and understanding from the ground up,” said Veronique Birault, Crick’s director of translation. “By combining our expertise, we hope to truly advance the field and offer hope for future generations.”

Mary M. Chapman began her professional career at United Press International, running both print and broadcast desks. She then became a Michigan correspondent for what is now Bloomberg BNA, where she mainly covered the automotive industry plus legal, tax and regulatory issues. A member of the Automotive Press Association and one of a relatively small number of women on the car beat, Chapman has discussed the automotive industry multiple times of National Public Radio, and in 2014 was selected as an honorary judge at the prestigious Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance. She has written for numerous national outlets including Time, People, Al-Jazeera America, Fortune, Daily Beast, MSN.com, Newsweek, The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press. The winner of the Society of Professional Journalists award for outstanding reporting, Chapman has had dozens of articles in The New York Times, including two on the coveted front page. She has completed a manuscript about centenarian car enthusiast Margaret Dunning, titled “Belle of the Concours.”
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Margarida graduated with a BS in Health Sciences from the University of Lisbon and a MSc in Biotechnology from Instituto Superior Técnico (IST-UL). She worked as a molecular biologist research associate at a Cambridge UK-based biotech company that discovers and develops therapeutic, fully human monoclonal antibodies.
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Mary M. Chapman began her professional career at United Press International, running both print and broadcast desks. She then became a Michigan correspondent for what is now Bloomberg BNA, where she mainly covered the automotive industry plus legal, tax and regulatory issues. A member of the Automotive Press Association and one of a relatively small number of women on the car beat, Chapman has discussed the automotive industry multiple times of National Public Radio, and in 2014 was selected as an honorary judge at the prestigious Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance. She has written for numerous national outlets including Time, People, Al-Jazeera America, Fortune, Daily Beast, MSN.com, Newsweek, The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press. The winner of the Society of Professional Journalists award for outstanding reporting, Chapman has had dozens of articles in The New York Times, including two on the coveted front page. She has completed a manuscript about centenarian car enthusiast Margaret Dunning, titled “Belle of the Concours.”
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5 comments

  1. Dave Reckonin says:

    “In the clinic, it’s devastating when I have to tell a patient they have motor neurone disease,” Rickie Patani, MD, project leader and a Crick and University College London (UCL) research group leader, said ..”

    Yes Rickie, we feel so sad and sorry for you having to tell the patient this news. But there again, think what’s like for them to hear the sentence handed down…sorry, I meant the diagnosis.

  2. Dave Reckonin says:

    Yet another project which aims to ‘..find out more about ALS.’

    This gives us a clue as to current research and what it is achieving. I.E. Not much except more symptom discovery.

    BS-ers rattle on about the accelerating amount and intensity of ALS research. These two factors do not automatically result in focused work aimed at developing treatment.

    Current research remains firmly in the category of ‘Blindfold Darts.’

  3. Bill says:

    Though I appreciate ALS News Today publishing and sharing, I find this more disappointing then encouraging. Profit to be made in research instead of coordinating precious resources and having collaboration with the many many apparently competing not assisting research avenues.

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