The ALS Canada Research Program awards eight new project grants in the pursuit of new therapy targets.

TORONTO, November 15, 2018 – The ALS Society of Canada (ALS Canada) today announced an investment of $1 million in eight new research projects being funded in 2018 through the ALS Canada Research Program, which is the only dedicated source of funding for ALS research in Canada. The ALS Canada Research Program is generously funded by Canadians committed to a future without ALS through individual donations and community-based efforts, including 40 per cent of net proceeds from the WALK for ALS fundraising events that take place across the country.

The eight new research projects being funded include multiple studies using cutting-edge techniques, never before applied to ALS, further examination of newly discovered proteins that may be critical to understanding how ALS works in the body, the use of specialized models of ALS to better understand how the disease occurs, a new spin on targeting abnormal immune and inflammatory mechanisms to treat ALS, and development of a unique Canadian protocol to measure the value of therapies on quality of life alongside medical evaluation in clinical trials.

“As someone living with ALS, when I see the passion and dedication of the Canadian ALS research community, I am hopeful that we will soon find the answers we need to change the lives of people living with this disease,” said Denis Blais, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2015 and last year had the opportunity to observe the peer review process. “While there has been significant progress in the last few years, there is more work to be done and we must continue to invest in ALS research to bring us closer to a future without ALS.”

The ALS Canada Research Program aims to accelerate research impact by providing funding support for the best ALS projects focused on someday translating scientific discoveries into treatments for ALS. The ongoing commitment of donors and partnership with provincial ALS Societies provides the program the ability to support new and innovative basic research, as well as help established researchers maintain momentum on vital ALS research projects.

“The Project Grant program directs donor dollars towards the best ALS research projects in Canada,” said Dr. David Taylor, VP Research, ALS Society of Canada. “These include great new ideas that need pilot funding to gather a foundation of data, ongoing ALS research that is already impacting the global understanding of ALS, and studies that directly affect people living with ALS today. Canadians are important contributors to the field and we hope the program can expand to fund even more projects in the future.”

The research being funded will seek to answer questions that will enable the exploration of new therapeutic targets, extend existing research to support further discoveries and help researchers gain a greater understanding about why ALS progresses differently in each individual. The research questions to be answered are:

  • Can unique fish models of ALS be used to understand nervous system signaling in ALS?
    $125,000 has been awarded to Dr. Gary Armstrong at the Montréal Neurological Institute.
  • Can a protein that affects immune cells in the brain be reprogrammed to prevent or slow ALS?
    $125,000 has been awarded to Dr. Jasna Kriz at Université Laval.
  • Can an effective measure of ALS-specific health related quality of life in clinical trials be developed?
    $124,993.81 has been awarded to Dr. Ayse Kuspinar and Dr. Vanina Dal Bello-Haas, both from McMaster University
  • Are abnormal stress granules a unifying factor in ALS?
    $125,000 has been awarded to Dr. Eric Lécuyer at Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM).
  • Is ALS pathology different in one region of the brain vs. another within a single person with ALS?
    $125,000 has been awarded to Dr. Janice Robertson at the University of Toronto.
  • Can environmental factors affecting genes explain why ALS affects people differently?
    $125,000 has been awarded to Dr. Ekaterina Rogaeva at the University of Toronto.
  • Does a unique, hidden protein called altFUS play a role in ALS?
    $125,000 has been awarded to Dr. Xavier Roucou at Université de Sherbrooke.
  • Does a previously unstudied protein called hnRNP A1B play an important role in ALS?
    $125,000 has been awarded to Dr. Christine Vande Velde at the University of Montréal.

The project grants for Dr. Ayse Kuspinar and Dr. Vanina Dal Bello-Haas, Dr. Janice Robertson and Dr. Xavier Roucou are supported in part by the Bernice Ramsay Estate.

Approximately 3,000 Canadians are living with ALS, a terminal disease that gradually paralyzes people because the brain is no longer able to communicate with the muscles of the body that we are typically able to move at will. Each year approximately 1,000 Canadians die from ALS and a similar number are diagnosed. With no cure and few treatment options available that have a significant impact on the progression of the disease, most people with ALS die within two to five years of diagnosis.

The funding of the eight research projects followed a competitive peer review process, which engaged global ALS experts who evaluated a larger pool of applications to identify the projects that are grounded in scientific excellence and have the potential to most quickly advance the field of ALS research in order to develop effective treatments. The peer review was observed by people who have personal experience with ALS.

About the ALS Canada Research Program and Canada’s ALS Societies

The ALS Research Program funds peer-reviewed research grants and fosters collaboration amongst Canadian researchers, helping to nurture new ideas and build capacity. Collectively through initiatives like the Walk to End ALS, ALS Societies across Canada support the ALS Canada Research Program. ALS Societies across Canada work together to maximize our collective impact and make the greatest difference for people affected by ALS. Our approach as eight independent organizations working in partnership enables us to respond to the variation that exists between provincial healthcare systems where we each play a role in filling gaps by providing community-based support. ALS Societies advocate federally, provincially and locally on behalf of people and families living with ALS for better government support and access within the healthcare system.

For more information:
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