The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been sweeping the nation. Unless you're living under a rock, you've probably heard of it by now. People are challenging their friends to either dump a bucket of ice water on their heads - or donate to help the cause of ALS.
I was nominated for the challenge by Red Acre's Gaurav Patel.
I'm happy to do the challenge, but first, in typical Red Acre style, let's go over a bit about ALS, companies that are working on potential drugs to help treat the disease, and ways you can get involved.
What is ALS ?
- ALS stands for Ameyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. The disease is know to many as "Lou Gehrig's disease" - after the famous baseball player Lou Gehrig who was stricken with the disease in 1939.
- ALS is a rapidly progressing and fatal neuro-degenerative disease that attacks the nerve cells responsible for controlling muscles (motor neurons).
- From the time of diagnosis, most patients live an average of just 1,100 days (just over 3 years).
- The exact causes of ALS are still under investigation, though recent research has begun to identify some genetic markers that may be tied to familial forms of ALS.
Here's a fact sheet about ALS from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Steve Perrin, the CEO of the ALS-TDI (see below) provides these 10-things you should know about ALS. (I was surprised to learn about #6).
Biotech Companies Working on ALS
There are many biotech companies working on drugs to help treat ALS. A quick search on clinicaltrials.gov yields the following publicly traded biotech companies with ALS trials either ongoing or recently completed:
- Sangamo BioSciences(SGMO)
- Malinckrodt (MNK)
- Novartis (NVS)
- Biogen-Idec (BIIB)
- Cytokinetics (CYTK)
- Eisai LTD (ESALY)
- Isis Pharmaceuticals (ISIS)
- Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK)
- CytRx (CYTR)
- Celgene (CELG)
- Neuralstem (CUR)
- Teva Pharmaceuticals (TEVA)
- Sanofi (SNY)
- Brianstorm Cell Therapies (BCLI)
- Avanir Pharmaceuticals (AVNR)
This is by no means a comprehensive list of the companies working on ALS. The ALS Forum has a database of companies working on therapies either directly for ALS, or that could have applications in ALS.
A Non-profit Biotech Company for ALS
ALS is such a huge unmet medical need that it has sparked the founding of the first-ever non-profit biotech company - the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS-TDI). The ALS TDI has raised over $100 million from the ALS community to help fund clinical research towards new therapies for ALS. Here's an article by their CEO, Steve Perrin, writing about the state of ALS research today.
How You Can Get Involved
There are many ways to get involved in helping to find a cure for ALS.
While dumping ice-water on your head doesn't lead to a cure, participating in the ice bucket challenge helps raise awareness.
The Key (in my opinion) is to remember to also donate either your time or your money to help the cause.
To support ALS-TDI - the non-profit biotech working to find a cure you can donate here.
Both of these organizations are highly rated charities, The ALS-TDI in particular has an excellent efficiency with 87% of donated funds being directly used for programs.
Doing the challenge was fun (and COLD!!!). But at the end of the day, the cause is more directly helped when we all open our wallets.
So here's the deal: I'm going to nominate several of my fellow biotech analysts. For each of you who accept my challenge (and post the video proof where the rest of us can watch), Red Acre Will donate $100 to the ALS-TDI. I'll honor the donations if you post your videos within 1 week of this challenge.
Gentlemen, you have 1 week!