Biogen Idec created a new research consortium with academic research centers aimed at identifying new approaches to treating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Participants hope that coordinating research and sharing results across various disciplines will greatly accelerate the understanding of the mechanism of ALS and the development of new targets and approaches to treatment.

Each participating lab will undertake a three-year project. Researchers will meet on a regular basis to provide updates and share information and insights emerging from their research and to exchange results from ongoing efforts at Biogen Idec, which will help to guide ongoing research activities.

“ALS research is a primary area of focus for Biogen Idec, but has proven to be a very difficult disease to understand and treat,” said Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas, Ph.D., svp, CSO, Biogen Idec and professor of cell biology, Harvard Medical School. “We believe that taking a holistic approach that explores the many variables involved in the development and progression of ALS will speed our ability to identify viable drug targets that can be moved into testing.”

Members of the consortium are Pietro De Camilli, M.D., and Arthur L. Horwich, M.D., from Yale; J. Wade Harper, Ph.D., Lee L. Rubin, Ph.D., and Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas, Ph.D. (who will oversee the consortium on behalf of Biogen Idec), from Harvard; Christopher E. Henderson, Ph.D., from Columbia; and Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Ph.D., from The Rockefeller University.

Biogen Idec said it has committed more than $10 million over three years to fund research projects by members of the consortium. This initiative will complement and extend a collaboration the company forged in July with Duke University and the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology to sequence the genomes of people living with ALS. The goal of that partnership is to sequence the genomes of approximately 500 patients with ALS over the next two years, with an ultimate goal of sequencing 1,000 ALS genomes within five years. Biogen Idec is currently testing dexpramipexole for ALS in a Phase III clinical trial.

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