Target ALS, ADDF Team Up to Fund Biomarker Research

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by Yedida Y Bogachkov PhD |

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A new partnership between Target ALS and the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) will help facilitate biomarker research in neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s disease, and frontotemporal dementia (FTD).

Identifying and validating appropriate biomarkers can help clinicians diagnose these diseases earlier, reliably track their progression, and assess the effects of new therapies, allowing for more efficient clinical trials.

The collaboration includes financial support from the ADDF’s Diagnostics Accelerator — a worldwide research effort launched in 2018 by Bill Gates and ADDF co-founder Leonard A. Lauder, with added support from other philanthropists to expedite biomarker development and diagnostic tools for neurodegenerative diseases.

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“The ADDF is excited to embark on this new partnership with Target ALS as collaboration is essential in expanding our scientific knowledge of all neurodegenerative diseases so we can deliver effective treatments for patients and families with ALS, Alzheimer’s and other related dementias,” Howard Fillit, MD, founding executive director and chief science officer at the ADDF, said in a press release.

Neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, ALS, and FTD, are very heterogeneous in terms of clinical presentation, as well as molecular and genetic causes. However, they share a lot of features, including TDP-43 protein clumping and tau protein effects.

“While each neurodegenerative disease is different, they also share overlapping genetics, molecular mechanisms and pathways that scientists can investigate to advance new effective treatments and reliable biomarkers,” Manish Raisinghani, PhD and CEO of Target ALS, said.

Funding through this partnership will advance the search for biomarkers in ALS, Alzheimer’s, and other related dementias, as well as provide some insight into the variety of disease courses and causes.

This partnership will create funding opportunities for approximately six to 10 biomarker-based projects over the next two years.

“The key is to encourage cross-pollination of ideas and engagement of experts across research communities, which is what we are fostering by establishing funding opportunities through this innovative partnership,” Raisinghani added.

Target ALS and ADDF will consider proposals for studies investigating novel peripheral biomarkers — those detected in blood or other body fluids — or digital biomarkers obtained via digital devices.

Studies can be from any stage of development, from proof-of-concept pilot studies through validation studies with substantial amounts of human data.

The call for proposals will be issued on Jan. 5, and projects may receive funding via two mechanisms. The first, funded by Target ALS, is for collaborative projects with two to four investigators that either aim to explore the utility of an existing biomarker from another neurodegenerative disease indication or provide proof-of-principle data for novel biomarkers. Each project may receive up to $300,000 per year, with a maximum of $100,000 per lab each year.

The second funding option is for projects that have succeeded in the exploratory or proof-of-principle stage. Funded by the Diagnostics Accelerator, projects may receive up to $500,000 in a single installment to advance a biomarker through the regulatory path to make it available to the global community.

“We are committed to investing in and developing novel biomarkers that will provide us with accessible, inexpensive and accurate ways to diagnose patients earlier than ever before and pave the way for new and innovative therapies,” Fillit said.