It all started about five years ago, with worms in a Petri dish in a Canadian ALS researcher’s lab. Today, researchers are preparing to launch a Phase 2 clinical trial of the drug pimozide, which in a couple of months will begin recruiting participants at multiple locations across Canada.

The story of how this discovery moved from a lab bench in 2012 to a Phase 2 clinical trial this fall was shared by Dr. David Taylor, Vice President Research at ALS Canada, during a webinar presentation on July 11, 2017. It is an excellent example of how the power of collaboration and the breadth of expertise among Canadian ALS researchers are advancing discoveries into clinical research that could result in therapies to make ALS a treatable, not terminal disease. ALS Canada is proud to be funding the clinical trial portion of the pimozide study, which builds on the earlier work nurtured by Drs. Alex Parker, Pierre Drapeau and many others.

Canadian ALS Research’s Strong Historical Roots

The Canadian ALS research community has a long history that began in the 1970s with neurologist Dr. Arthur Hudson at Western University in London, Ontario. He advocated for more help for people with the disease and in 1977, helped to create the ALS Society of Canada and one of the first multidisciplinary clinics in the world for ALS patients in London. Soon after, a close colleague and friend, Dr. Andrew Eisen, moved from Montreal to the University of British Columbia, where he started the ALS Society of British Columbia and Canada’s second multidisciplinary ALS clinic in Vancouver.

Canadian ALS Research is World Class

When it comes to ALS research, Canada punches above its weight class. Today, in 2017, the core community consists of more than 70 researchers, almost double the number from five years ago in 2012. The field continues to grow as more researchers dedicate their work to learning more about all aspects of ALS. The tight-knit community works on two types of research:

  • Preclinical laboratory research – usually conducted by a professor at a university together with a team of students, postdoctoral fellows and laboratory technicians
  • Clinical research – led by a researcher or a medical doctor at a hospital academic research centre affiliated with a university, including clinical trials of new, experimental treatments for ALS.

In a detailed analysis of the number of published research papers and citations by country, which examined how many times works were referenced or used as a building block to advance the field, Dr. Taylor found that Canada ranked third in the world for the total number of citations and second on a per capita basis.

Advancing ALS Research in Canada

In addition to supporting Canadians living with ALS, an important part of ALS Canada’s mission is to invest in research to make ALS a treatable, not terminal condition in the future.

ALS Canada has several programs and initiatives to support the Canadian ALS research community. For example, for the past 13 years ALS Canada has hosted the annual ALS Canada Research Forum that brings the research community face to face to share ideas, spark the formation of new collaborations and connect with Canadians living with ALS and their family members, as well as ALS Canada supporters including volunteers and donors.

ALS Canada also sponsors ad-hoc meetings to enable ALS researchers to share knowledge on timely topics, and travel stipends to support up to 15 Canadian researchers to present their work at the International Symposium on ALS/MND, the largest international ALS conference, which will take place in Boston in December 2017.

Many of the top ALS researchers in the world believe the unprecedented level of research activity will soon lead to treatments that can make a significant impact to alter the progression of the disease. Ushering more discoveries like pimozide from lab bench to clinical trial depends on funding.

ALS research today is at an exciting, unprecedented level of excitement and momentum with more progress in the last five to seven years than in the last century. ALS Canada plays a critical role to advance ALS research in Canada by funding peer-reviewed research grants, fostering collaboration and building capacity within the ALS research community — all funded through the generosity of donors.

Read about the ALS Canada Research Program and consider making a donation today.


Posted in: Research