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The Angel Fund contributes $1.1 million for ALS research at UMass Medical School

By Megan Bard

UMass Medical School Communications

May 08, 2019
angel-fund-marathon-team-40.png
The Angel Fund for ALS Research Boston Marathon
runners and members of the advisory board pictured
with Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD

The Angel Fund for ALS Research has delivered on its pledge to donate an additional $1 million in support of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research underway at UMass Medical School in the lab of Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, the Leo P. and Theresa M. LaChance Chair in Medical Research, professor of neurology and director of the Program in Neurotherapeutics.

Angel Fund President Richard Kennedy and members of the local charity presented Dr. Brown with the check last month. Since its founding in 1997, The Angel Fund has raised more than $15 million for Brown’s research into ALS.

ALS is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease affecting the motor neurons in the central nervous system. The cause of most cases of ALS is not known. Approximately 10 percent of cases are inherited. Though investigators at UMMS and elsewhere have identified several genes shown to cause inherited or familial ALS, almost 50 percent of these cases have an unknown genetic cause. There are no significant treatments for the disease.

“It has been my personal pleasure to see the extraordinary progress made through the discretionary funding that The Angel Fund provides,” said  Kennedy. “At a time when funding is so crucial, we are pleased to honor our commitment to Dr. Brown’s research with this donation.”

UMMS will recognize the accomplishments of The Angel Fund and Kennedy’s personal commitment during Commencement exercises on June 2, where Kennedy will receive an honorary degree. ALS has been a part of Kennedy’s family since 1989, when the disease claimed his father. Several years later, Kennedy’s youngest brother died from ALS at the age of 31, and in 2016, Kennedy was himself diagnosed with ALS at the age of 56. The commitment of Kennedy, his family, friends and colleagues at The Angel Fund is more ardent than ever—they advocate and raise money for promising research because it provides meaningful hope to his family and countless others around the globe.

Brown and a team of research colleagues are working to develop a therapy to silence genes that promote ALS. Promising new research from Brown and Christian Mueller, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics, was published in October 2018, showing evidence that a therapy using synthetic microRNAs may safely treat patients with ALS. It appeared in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Related stories on UMassMedNow:
Robert Brown Jr. and Jonathan Watts honored by Angel Fund for ALS
UMass Medical School scientists safely deliver RNAi-based gene therapy for ALS in animal model
New gene editing approach for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency shows promise in UMMS study
Five-year, $11 million grant to fund new approaches to gene therapy
Substantial progress being made in ALS research at UMMS

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