Columbia University Medical Center has announced a three-year, $25 million initiative to streamline the discovery of new approaches to treating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Building on a research initiative of Project A.L.S. and the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins University, the Target ALS initiative will pool the efforts of dozens of scientists and laboratories into a centralized organizational framework, making it easier for researchers and labs participating in the initiative to share ideas and discoveries. The initiative is being funded by Bloomberg LP president and CEO Daniel L. Doctoroff, Carlyle Group co-founder and co-CEO David M. Rubenstein, and Bloomberg Philanthropies.
The immediate goal of the initiative is to seed an array of drug development programs. To that end, Target ALS will identify and transfer candidate therapeutic targets — molecular events that occur in ALS patients that, when blocked, can slow or arrest disease progression — to pharmaceutical and biotech companies. At the same time, the Target ALS Core Facilities, a feature of the new consortium, will enable ALS investigators to access key technologies that are too complex or costly to set up in individual laboratories.
"Target ALS will generate a pipeline of candidate therapeutic targets that will provide a common language for Target ALS and pharma and biotech companies, with whom we have initiated a dialogue to define their needs and expectations," said Christopher E. Henderson, co-director of the Motor Neuron Center and the Project A.L.S./Jenifer Estess Laboratory for Stem Cell Research at Columbia University Medical Center, who will co-manage the initiative as scientific director.
"Finding a cure for ALS requires that we think differently about how to tackle this debilitating disease," said Doctoroff. "While ALS scientists have made great progress in the last few years, their research too often occurs in silos, impeding discovery. Target ALS will provide an organizational framework for the world's leading ALS researchers to share and coordinate their findings so that we can make progress toward therapies and a cure."