LALJI ALS FAMILY AWARD/GRANT
2022 Lalji ALS Family Award
The Sean M. Healey & AMG Center for ALS at Massachusetts General Hospital awarded the second annual Drs. Ayeez and Shelena Lalji & Family ALS Endowed Award for Innovative Healing to two outstanding teams this year:
- Dr. Clive N. Svendsen, Executive Director, Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute Cedars-Sinai, Regenerative Medicine Institute, and Professor of Biomedical Sciences at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA, for his team’s work on transplanting progenitor cells producing the growth factor GDNF into the spinal cord of patients with ALS, Dr. Jeffrey Rothstein, Director of the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research and Professor of Neurology at Johns Hopkins, and the Answer ALS Team. Answer ALS is a global project dedicated to developing and implementing a unified strategy to stop ALS. The team aims to achieve change through unifying the global community toward agreed upon goals in research, science, technology and education.
- Dr. Clotilde Lagier-Tourenne of MGH and Harvard Medical School, Dr. Don Cleveland of the University of California San Diego (UCSD), Dr. Jone Lopez-Erauskin of UCSD, Dr. Zevik Melamed of UCSD, and Dr. Kevin Eggan of BioMarin for their work on identifying Stathmin-2 as a therapeutic target for ALS. The team identified that the mRNA encoding stathmin-2 is the most affected mRNA following reduction of TDP-43 function. Their findings suggest that stathmin-2 has high therapeutic relevance for the majority of ALS including sporadic and familial ALS cases and offers the possibility of a novel clinically feasible therapy.
The award was virtually presented to the team during the virtual 33rd International Symposium on ALS/MND by Merit Cudkowicz, MD, MSc Director of the Healey & AMG Center at Mass General and Drs. Ayeez and Shelena Lalji.
The review committee consisting of clinicians and scientists selected both recipients of the 2022 award based on their excellence in transformative scientific discoveries focused on the repair and regeneration of neurological function in ALS.
“Both teams have exemplified outstanding abilities to transform ALS treatment and care” said Cudkowicz, who is also the Chief of Neurology at MGH. “With the innovation and research coming from these teams, I am certain they will continue to make strides in the fight against ALS and make an enormous impact on the ALS community.”
“We would like to thank the Lalji family award for recognizing the team who developed and delivered a new type of combined stem cell and gene therapy approach to the clinic for patients with ALS” said Dr. Svendsen”. “We are also very happy to have helped generate stem cells from ALS patients as part of Answer ALS”
“The entire Answer ALS team is deeply grateful for the recognition of the Lalji family award. We are especially thankful for the wonderful participation of the ALS patient community in helping to build this new foundation of research tools and data. We are especially hopeful that this massive set of freely and openly accessible patient data and the living cell lines from our patients will one day aid in finding a truly effective therapy for sporadic and familial ALS,” said Dr. Rothstein of the Answer ALS team.
“This project started by converting skin cells (fibroblasts) of ALS patients into neurons to model “disease in a dish” – and now we have nearly completed that circle, moving back to patients with a therapeutic agent,” said Dr. Melamed of the Stathmin 2 team. “This research was possible thanks to the generosity of ALS patients willing to participate in research, and the fantastic research teams and leadership, carrying the main goal to uncover critical mechanisms leading to motor neuron loss in ALS, all while staying mindful that we need to convert those findings into cures. The short time between the initial discovery and the demonstration of therapeutic efficacy in vivo demonstrates that sincere intention. This is such a great honor to receiving this award!”
“Receiving this recognition is a real honor, and we want to thank the Lalji family and the Healey & AMG Center for acknowledging our efforts,” added Dr. Lopez-Erauskin of the Stahmin 2 team.
The Drs. Ayeez and Shelena Lalji & Family ALS Endowed Award for Innovative Healing is an annual, global prize with the goal of identifying therapies and modalities to regain lost function in people living with ALS. To learn more about this $40,000 USD prize and how to nominate an individual or team for the annual award, click here.
2021 Lalji ALS Family Award
The Sean. M. Healey & AMG Center for ALS at Massachusetts General Hospital through the generosity of Drs. Shelena and Ayeez Lalji, established the Lalji Family ALS Award in honor of the important scientific work being done in ALS. This new award will recognize an individual or team of investigators for excellence in their transformative scientific discoveries focused on repair of neurological function in ALS.
2021 Lalji ALS Award Winner
The first annual Drs. Ayeez and Shelena Lalji & Family ALS Endowed Award for Innovative Healing to Professor Michael Coleman, University of Cambridge and Professor Marc Freeman, Oregon Health & Science University for their excellence in transformative scientific discoveries focused on repair of neurological function in ALS. The award was virtually presented to the team during the 32nd International Symposium on ALS/MND by Merit Cudkowicz, MD, MSc Director of the Healey & AMG Center at Mass General and Drs. Ayeez and Shelena Lalji.
The review committee consisting of clinicians and scientists unanimously selected Freeman and Coleman as the inaugural recipients of the 2021 award for their groundbreaking discovery of key regulators of axonal health and degeneration (NMNATs, SARM1) enabling drug discovery to improve and promote axonal health in ALS and other diseases.
“Professor Michael Coleman and Professor Marc Freeman are incredible investigators in the field of axonal health and degeneration and their fundamental discoveries have facilitated drug discovery in this area. We are excited that they are part of the ALS community and very pleased to honor them with this award,” said Cudkowicz, who is also chief of Department of Neurology at MGH.
“The progress made in this research field since we identified the WldS gene has been greater than anything we could possibly have imagined at the time, and it is especially exciting that the pathway it blocks is now being directly implicated in ALS and other human diseases,” says Coleman. “It is a great honor to receive this award and I hope the attention it brings to Wallerian degeneration research will accelerate the progress already being made towards therapies.”
“It is inspiring to see the field moving forward so quickly and the potential impact that studies of Wallerian degeneration could have on human diseases like ALS coming into focus,” said Freeman. “Studies of WldS/SARM1 are reminders of how fundamental basic research can lead to unexpected and important advances in our understanding of human disease mechanisms. It’s truly an honor to receive this award which the Lalji Family has generously endowed and we hope it stimulates even deeper exploration of axon biology in the context of ALS.”
“When my husband, Dr. Ayeez Lalji, was diagnosed in 2017 we decided, as a family, that we would change our mindset from tragedy to transformation. We are committed to helping transform the management, research, and cure for ALS,” said Dr. Shelena Lalji. “Our foundation, ALS Heroes, will continue to work with world experts to bring solutions for regaining function to all those living with this devastating illness.”
The Drs. Ayeez and Shelena Lalji & Family ALS Endowed Award for Innovative Healing is an annual, global prize to recognize an individual or team of investigators for excellence in their transformative scientific discoveries focused on repair of neurological function in ALS. The goal of this prize is to identify therapies and modalities to regain lost function in people living with ALS. To learn more about this $40,000 USD prize and how to nominate an individual or team for the annual award, click here.
For more information about the Sean M. Healey and AMG Center for ALS, please visit the website.