NEW YORK, May 5, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Target ALS and The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (AFTD) announced $5 million in funding awards for work by six research teams to aid in the discovery of biomarkers and viable treatments for ALS and frontotemporal degeneration (FTD).
ALS and FTD (the most common dementia under 60) overlap in genetic causes and biological mechanisms. By joining forces, Target ALS and AFTD are leveraging the combined expertise of researchers in two fields, fueling collaboration in support of the most promising ideas. These newly funded projects will inform, and potentially result in, both viable treatments and the biomarkers critically needed to enable accurate diagnosis and measure disease progression.
Biomarkers are an invaluable evaluation tool for researchers, providing a roadmap to measure disease progression and guide drug development. They have helped to inform lifesaving treatments for many of the world's most pervasive diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disorders. It is anticipated that when discovered, biomarkers will have a similar catalyst effect for ALS and FTD research.
"Funding collaborative efforts has led to the most promising research coming out of our Innovation Ecosystem, the model we created in 2013 to bring the best minds together and achieve impactful research results," said Target ALS Chief Executive Officer Manish Raisinghani, Ph.D. "Partnering with AFTD has been an incredible step forward in that commitment, now reaching a critical milestone as we fund grantees who represent collaboration between researchers from academia, private industry and the nonprofit sector."
AFTD CEO Susan L-J Dickinson, MSGC, added: "We're proud to join Target ALS in announcing funding for these crucial funding efforts. With the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic is adding for the families we serve," she noted, "we want them to know that we are working as hard as ever to bring momentum for a day when treatments can halt FTD and ALS in their tracks."
The six collaborative projects will assess promising potential ways to detect—and therapeutic strategies to address—ALS/FTD pathology. The selected consortia receiving funding are:
- Eikonizo Therapeutics, VIB-KU Leuven, Mayo Clinic, UZ/KU Leuven
- Novation Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Université de Montréal/CRCHUM
- Expansion Therapeutics, Scripps Research Institute
- Merck & Co., University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh
- QurAlis, Harvard University, University of Massachusetts Medical Center
- Biogen, University of Michigan Medical School, University of Massachusetts Medical Center
In addition to funding, grantees will have open access to tools and resources from the Target ALS Innovation Ecosystem including human biosamples, genomic datasets, and stem cells. Access to these tools and resources were created based on extensive feedback from over 100 representatives in the ALS research community worldwide as being critically needed to advance drug discovery and development. For a full list of scientific resources, click here.
Background on ALS and FTD/Areas of Overlap
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is caused by the death of motor neurons—nerve cells that control voluntary muscles.
Frontotemporal degeneration (FTD) represents a group of underdiagnosed neurodegenerative disorders characterized by progressive changes in behavior, personality, language and/or movement.
A continuum between the two diseases can be characterized on clinical, imaging, and pathological grounds. The recent discovery that mutation of the C9orf72 gene is the most common genetic cause of both disorders – as well as increasing awareness that some individuals face a diagnosis of FTD-ALS spectrum disorder – offer further evidence of this continuum.
AFTD envisions a world with compassionate care, effective support, and a future free of FTD. Research is core to achieving every aspect of that vision. AFTD drives leading-edge research programs that stimulate young scientists to focus on FTD and evaluate and pioneer new ideas to advance the science. AFTD grants are awarded in support of the best science, worldwide. We use grant funding to stimulate new partnerships with other leaders targeting dementia and neurodegenerative disease, recognizing that a breakthrough targeting one of these conditions could benefit families facing any of them in the future.
ABOUT Target ALS
Founded in 2013 by former New York City Deputy Mayor, Dan Doctoroff, with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, Target ALS is a non-profit organization focused on fostering collaboration to accelerate ALS drug discovery and development. Our Innovation Ecosystem—a radically different approach to medical research—overcomes barriers and brings together the right people, funding, and critical resources to drive the development of breakthrough therapies for ALS.
SOURCE Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration