On November 15 2015, Martha Olson-Fernandez Foundation officers, Larry and Natalie Fernandez, attended the ALS Leadership Summit in Boston. The summit, hosted by ALS Therapy Development Institute (TDI), offered a wealth of knowledge on recent advancements in ALS research projects. The summit and featured speakers from Biogen, ALS TDI, The Forbes Norris ALS/MDA Clinic in San Francisco, and the Harvard School of Public Health. The attendees included investment companies, top researchers in the NMD/ALS field, pharmaceutical company representatives, as well as ALS patients and their families. The energy in the conference room at the Hyatt was charged by powerful minds, and a frustrated search for answers to such a complex disease pathology. The element of time was what everyone felt short on.
The takeaway from the conference was that ALS is not an untreatable disease, but an underfunded one. Recent research has surfaced many new findings about the disease and the role of the immune system in the final stages of the disease, but due to the nuanced subjectivity and spectral nature of ALS, researchers are still racing time to find treatments.
Overall, the summit centered around several key topics:
1. The importance of utilizing biomarkers to track pathogenesis and drug efficacy in ALS patients.
2. The methodology behind initiating, and executing preclinical research projects at ALS TDI
3. The structure and function of the Precision Care Program at ALS TDI
4. The discovery of the role of the immune system in the later stages of ALS and how this immobilizing stage of ALS can potentially be slowed and prevented with AT-1501.
5. Biogen’s discussion of new ways to visualize how effective intrathecal drug delivery is at getting the drug molecules passed the blood brain barrier and into the Central Nervous System (CNS).
The ALS TDI Leadership Summit hosted an awards ceremony during which it recognized several courageous people dedicated to fighting ALS. The 2015 Leadership Award winners are listed below:
Award: Stephen Heywood Patients Today Award. Recipient: US Navy LT. Commander (RET.) Matt Bellina (Holland, PA)
Award: Stephen Milne Adventurous Spirit Award. Recipient: Sarah Coglianese (San Fransisco, CA)
Award: Mary Lou Krauseneck Courage & Love Award. Recipient: Bobby Forster (Newport, RI)
Award: Fran Delaney Challenge & Respect Award. Recipient: Beth Hebron (Maplewood, NJ)
Award: Stephen Mile Adventurous Spirit Award. Recipient: Maureen Ramirez and Team Godfather Charitable Foundation
Award: Stephen Heywood Patients Today Award. Recipient: Jay Smith (Austin, TX)
Thank you to ALS TDI for the informative and well executed leadership summit.