9 ALS Researchers Win US Gov’t Award for Work Toward New Treatments

Magdalena Kegel avatar

by Magdalena Kegel |

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The U.S. Department of Defense announced that nine researchers are the winners of the 2015 ALS Research Program (ALSRP), which aims to improve treatment and find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) by funding preclinical research into the disease. The winners were announced in a press release by the ALS Association.

For an unknown reason, veterans suffer a doubled risk of developing ALS compared to the general population, with an increased risk observed across all types of military service personnel. The ALSRP was established in 2007 as a supportive action for military veterans, and distributes two kinds of awards: the Therapeutic Development Award and the Therapeutic Idea Award.

The Therapeutic Idea Award supports research into hypothesis-driven drug discovery aiming to find new ALS therapies. The award was given to Claudio Hetz, at the Biomedical Neuroscience Institute; Brent Stockwell at Columbia University; Gong Chen at Pennsylvania State University; Jacob Robinson, at Rice University; Evan Snyder, at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute; Keith Gagnon, at Southern Illinois University; Joseph Puglisi, at Stanford University; and Justin Yerbury, at the University of Wollongong in Australia.

The Therapeutic Development Award targets projects that are investigating post-discovery substances in the pre-clinical development phase. Dr. Antonius Bunt, from Izumi Biosciences, Inc., received the award.

According to the release, the ALSRP employs a two-step evaluation of the applications to ensure that the best science is being funded. In the first step, a peer review inspection was performed and applicants were evaluated based on established criteria for determining scientific merit. The second step was a review of the research program by the so-called Integration Panel. The panel consists of ALS scientists, physicians, and ALS advocates and recommends funding based on scientific merit, balance of the scientific portfolio, and relevance to the goals of ALSRP.

The ALS Association’s chief scientist, Lucie Bruijn, is currently a member of the Integration Panel.

By collaborating across the Department of Defense, Veteran Affairs, National Institutes of Health and the private sector, the program works to ensure that resources are provided to the most promising projects, and that duplication of work is avoided.

Only one drug, Riluzole, is currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat ALS.