Current Research News

January 10, 2017 – ALS Canada is thrilled to be part of Project MinE, an international research collaboration that will help to better understand why some people develop ALS while others do not, in order to better target the disease. Researchers working on Project MinE will collect and map the DNA profiles of 15,000 people with ALS and 7,500 control subjects to identify genetic patterns.

A project of this scope is unprecedented in ALS research.

Read the full article here

November 23, 2016 – The ALS Society of Canada (ALS Canada), in partnership with Brain Canada, today announced $4.5 million in funding for nine new ALS research projects. This means that since the Ice Bucket Challenge became a social media phenomenon in 2014, nearly $20 million has been invested in Canadian ALS research at a time when it has the potential to make the greatest impact.

Read the full article here.  Cliquez ici pour français

July 28, 2016 – Ice Bucket Challenge Leads to ALS Gene Discovery

Le Défi du seau d’eau glacée mène à la découverte d’un gène lié la SLA – Cliquez ici pour français.

Earlier this week researchers announced that the gene NEK1 has been found to play a significant role in the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This landmark discovery is the result of an 11-country research collaboration that was funded through the Ice Bucket Challenge. The research team included 3 Canadians, one of whom was directly funded by the ALS Society of Canada for their work during this discovery.

This finding will trigger future studies that focus specifically on the NEK1 gene. It is a compelling example of how donor dollars can lead to landmark research results, and speaks to the ongoing need to fund ALS research. In Canada, the Ice Bucket Challenge resulted in more than $20 million in research funding through ALS Canada – more than 10 times the annual research investment the organization has typically been able to make. Your support of further research will support further advances that will make ALS a treatable, not terminal, disease.

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November 19, 2015ALS Research in Canada Receives Historic $15 Million Dollar Investment

A University of Manitoba research team investigating a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) was awarded $1.6 M today as one of only five Canadian research teams selected for a translational team grant.

ALS Societies across Canada and the ALS Canada Research Program, in partnership with Brain Canada, announced $15 million in funding to be invested amongst research teams across Canada to support ALS research.

See a breakdown chart by clicking here, English or en francais

October, 2015ALS Canada Research Program Webinar Series | Creative Assets ALS Canada is launching a webinar series to help keep you informed on the field of ALS research. Hosted by Dr. David Taylor, Director of Research at ALS Canada, this complimentary Webinar series will provide information about the latest advancements in research, how your dollars are funding one of the best research programs in the world and how to get involved in clinical trials to help make ALS a treatable, not terminal disease.  To see the schedule of webinars being presented and to register, please click on the link above.

August 25, 2015ALS Canada-Brain Canada Career Transition Award Recipient Announcement

April, 20152015 Doctoral Research Award Recipients Announced

December, 2014ALS Canada Announces Funding for 2014 Discovery Grants

January 8, 2014 – Arthur J. Hudson Translational Team Grant Announced

The Arthur J. Hudson Translational Team Grant was first announced on May 3, 2014 at the ALS Canada Research Forum and the inaugural competition deadline was July 1, 2014. This new grant program is designed to fund teams of Canadian researchers to accelerate the movement of ideas out of the laboratory and into the clinic with the hope of assisting development of new therapeutics for ALS. It is the cornerstone of our ALS Canada Research Program designed to emphasize bench-to-bedside translation. For the first time ever, ALS Canada, in partnership with Brain Canada, have utilized an International Peer Review Panel consisting of seven European and American ALS experts, spanning the basic to clinical spectrum, who convened in Toronto in November to determine the top project amongst strong competition.

It is a great pleasure to announce that the recipient of the first Arthur J. Hudson Translational Team Grant is a team led by Dr. Lawrence Korngut, MD at the University of Calgary and also includes Dr. Lorne Zinman, MD from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and University of Toronto. Together, they will pursue “A randomized controlled trial of pimozide in subjects with ALS”; a Phase II study involving 100 participants across 8 ALS clinics across Canada.

This trial, led by the Principal Investigator of the Canadian Neuromuscular Disease Registry (CNDR) and the Chair of the Canadian ALS Research Network (CALS) will examine whether pimozide, a drug already approved by Health Canada for use in psychoses like schizophrenia and Tourette’s syndrome, might slow progression of ALS. Pimozide is particularly effective at stabilizing neuromuscular function, which means it can strengthen the connection where the motor neuron meets the muscle (called the neuromuscular junction or NMJ). It is hoped that by strengthening this connection, there will be preservation of transmission of signals from the brain to the muscle and slowing of paralysis in ALS.

This Hudson Grant will also fund the validation of an exciting new potential biomarker. Biomarkers are ways of monitoring the body (eg. looking for something in blood or doing a particular physical examination) to either diagnose ALS earlier, select individuals for a trial or monitor effectiveness of a treatment. In recent years, ALS researchers have placed great emphasis on clinical trial biomarkers that ensure the drug is doing the action it is intended to in humans. Without knowing this, it is impossible to determine if an experimental ALS treatment worked or didn’t work as a result of affecting the body function scientists think it was targeting. For example, it was believed that the Biogen drug dexpramipexole, which was tested in a Phase III clinical trial in 2012, improved the function of energy producing machinery in cells called mitochondria. When dexpramipexole failed to slow down ALS progression, there was no biomarker used to determine if this failure was a result of mitochondrial function or not because it was not tested.

In ALS clinics, neurologists utilize a procedure where they can stimulate an individual’s motor neurons to examine their ability to trigger muscle function. For decades, neurologists have observed that repetitive stimulation of motor neurons can lead to decreased response of muscles in many people living with ALS (called decremental response) and it is hypothesized that this may be a result of poor NMJ connectivity and transmission as motor neurons degenerate. Since pimozide strengthens or restores the NMJ, Dr. Korngut’s team will measure whether this decremental response can be a biomarker to recruit individuals likely to benefit from pimozide, but also to monitor whether pimozide is acting as hypothesized so a positive or negative result on ALS can be properly interpreted. This means if pimozide does slow ALS progression, we will know whether or not it is a result of NMJ connectivity.

“What is most exciting about this portion of the project is that Dr. Korngut will examine the effectiveness of this biomarker in a small pimozide human trial that is already underway at the University of Calgary” said Dr. David Taylor, Director of Research for ALS Canada. “Should it work, the biomarker can also be used to recruit individuals with the highest likelihood to respond to pimozide treatment for the Hudson Grant funded, 100 participant clinical trial across the country.”

This project will also highlight the exceptional infrastructure of the Canadian ALS research community. The CNDR, led by Dr. Korngut, is an innovative platform for organizing patient information to facilitate clinical research and is routinely recognized as one of the best organized ALS registries in the world. In this trial, the CNDR will allow for more efficient recruitment of participants, better data management and improved monitoring of participants following the trial. Furthermore, CALS, led by Dr. Zinman, is the incorporated network of 15 academic ALS multidisciplinary clinics across Canada. Working together the CNDR and CALS are utilizing optimal infrastructure to initiate and execute clinical trials in a manner that is unique to Canada.

Testing pimozide in the clinic is the next step in a series of projects that have taken several years to develop. Pimozide was first discovered as a potential treatment for ALS in the Canadian labs of Drs. Pierre Drapeau, Alex Parker and Richard Robitaille at Université de Montréal working with zebrafish, worm and mouse genetic models. These individuals are pioneers of the translational team concept in Canada and ALS Canada/Brain Canada are fortunate to have the opportunity to support the first large clinical study produced by this visionary pipeline. We look forward to watching the progress of this study with great excitement. ALS Canada is committed to increasing the opportunity for Canadians living with ALS to participate in clinical trials of exciting new experimental therapeutics. The first Arthur J. Hudson Translational Team Grant will provide this opportunity and lay further groundwork for future clinical trials in Canada.

David Taylor, PhD
Director of Research
ALS Society of Canada

December 3, 2014 – ALS Canada Announces Funding for 2014 Discovery Grants

The ALS Canada Research program was established to fund the top ALS research in Canada to meet ALS Canada’s strategic vision to find a treatment for ALS. Thanks to your support, we are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2014 ALS Canada-Brain Canada Discovery Grants.

This announcement marks the first grants named in the partnership with Brain Canada. As part of the ALS community, we are tremendously excited about that this partnership is able to fund world class projects that will ultimately move the field of ALS research forward.

Click here to learn more about each recipient and their project.

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