Message from ALS Canada’s Director of Research
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The past year has been a time of continued optimism and momentum in ALS research, complete transformation of the ALS Canada Research Program and unprecedented levels of awareness and fundraising. As we look back on the last 12 months, the number of differences in our Research Program is staggering.
The Arthur J. Hudson Translational Team Grant was conceptualized in September 2013 and final applications are currently under review by ALS Canada’s first ever International Peer Review Panel (IPRP). The Hudson Grant is easily the largest financial commitment in our program’s history, but it is also our strongest commitment to nurturing new therapies for ALS and utilizing the research infrastructure built in Canada to its maximum efficiency for the benefit of people living with the disease. In addition, development of an International Peer Review Panel of seven world experts in ALS research, with varying areas of expertise across the basic/clinical research spectrum, is a critical advancement for ALS Canada to continue funding the best Canadian research that will move the field forward.
As for the state of ALS research, nearing the end of 2014, I think there is no better word to use than ‘momentum’. It is your generosity that has helped to maintain the momentum of key work when it was in danger of stalling due to lack of government support.
In late 2011, one of the biggest breakthroughs in ALS research history came when defects in a gene called C9ORF72 (often referred to as ‘C9’) were discovered to cause more cases of familial ALS than any other known genetic cause. Being previously unstudied, yet so important to our understanding of the disease, researchers raced to learn more about this new gene, what its normal functions were, and how it fi t with the other major genetic players in ALS pathology, namely SOD1, TDP-43 and FUS. If 2012 was about learning how to study C9 and 2013 was about gaining the
fi rst look at what it does, 2014 has been about interpreting that understanding into ways to target ALS for a new generation of therapies. Combined with rapidly advancing technology, we can only imagine what exciting discoveries will be made in 2015.
At the beginning of 2014, ALS Canada’s Research Program was already on a strategic path to developing novel therapeutic strategies for slowing the disease progression. With your continued, loyal support, as well as the generosity of Canadians through the recent Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS, we stand ready to increase our investment in ALS research and accelerate that plan. Our researchers are ready with visionary projects they couldn’t previously consider, and our Research Program is poised with infrastructure in place to take ideas effi ciently from the concept
stage through to clinical trials.
David Taylor, PhD
Director of Research, ALS Canada