Indiana Offering Specialty License Plate to Support ALS Research

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by Mary Chapman |

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Indiana motorists can now sport a specialty license plate on their vehicles to show their support for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), while contributing to the work into this neurodegenerative disease underway at the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI).

Proceeds from plate purchases will go to support studies taking place at the ALS TDI lab in Massachusetts. The nonprofit biotech, founded by a family affected by ALS, is reported to be world’s foremost drug discovery lab focused solely on preclinical, clinical, and translational research into this disease.

The plate, which features both “End ALS” and the institute’s logo, came into being through the efforts of Corey Polen, an ALS patient and Brownsburg, Indiana, resident. Polen collected nearly 1,500 signatures to support the plate’s application to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (Indiana BMV).

“Many things baffled me after I was told I was going to die at the age of 40,” Polen said in a press release. “At the top of the list was the lack of effective treatments, as well as the lack of awareness Hoosiers [Indiana residents] have about ALS.

“These plates will have a cascading impact with not only the exposure across the state and nation but also by developing a treatment for ALS,” he said.

Vehicles eligible for the specialty plate include any passenger car, motorcycle, recreational vehicle, or truck that weighs under 11,000 pounds. The plate may be ordered through the Indiana BMV website or in person at any bureau branch.

ALS TDI began a treatment screening initiative last year that, using neural cells derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells, is looking through the institute’s library of 36,000 small molecules for those with treatment potential. A number are emerging in research using ALS animal models.

In addition, the institute is analyzing blood samples from its Precision Medicine Program’s (PMP) In-Home Blood Collection Initiative to discover and validate blood-based biomarkers of ALS progression. Patients enrolled in the PMP are helping to advance studies into disease progression and biomarkers, as well as work into ALS genetics, risk factors, and intervention outcomes.

Institute researchers published a study last year into a reportedly unexplored therapeutic target for ALS that is caused by the C9orf72 gene mutation. Such mutations are the most common genetic cause of ALS, accounting for up to 40% of familial ALS cases and 7% of sporadic ALS cases.