A Big Data Approach Leads to Undiscovered Insights into ALS
This past summer nine Master / PhD students from various disciplines travelled to New York, Boston, Portugal, Spain and The Netherlands with the goal to develop new insights into Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in order to speed up the discovery of therapeutics. This challenge was organized by Treeway, a Dutch bio-tech company founded by two ALS patients. The students analyzed sponsored data to develop an ALS model, which can help improve our understanding of the disease. The joint results of the challenge can help contribute to finding a new drug for ALS.
The students split up into three sub groups to work on different assignments. Group 1 developed a mind map to describe and link the different biological processes involved in ALS. The mind map is a useful tool to gather information about ALS, to identify new connections between biological processes involved in ALS, and to identify possible new drug targets. In the future, this could possibly lead to better therapeutics.
Group 2 worked on developing a population model, using the PRO-ACT database, to describe a patient’s disease progression. The PRO-ACT database consists of more than eight million measurements from ALS patients, recorded during several clinical trials. The population model can help predict a patient’s disease progression based on different influencing factors such as, age and gender. In the future this model can provide patients with a more accurate prognosis and it can help to improve the design of clinical trials.
And last but not least group 3 tried to understand how a drug might work in an ALS patient. The group developed physiology-based models, which describe different processes in ALS patients. These models can support the drug development process by improving our understanding of how a drug will behave in the body of an ALS patient.
Treeway’s mission is to accelerate ALS therapy development. Inez de Greef, CEO of Treeway said: “The creativity and motivation of the team was very inspiring and the results of the three groups provide new angles towards finding new therapy for ALS.”
We make a difference!
After three months of travelling all over the world, doing extensive research, and meeting inspiring experts and great companies, the journey of the students has come to an end. Jan Schlender one of the 8 students said “This unique challenge illustrated entrepreneurial spirit in the pharmaceutical world. Furthermore, I enjoyed the insights of the drug development process in smaller biotech companies. With this challenge, new time consuming approaches such as a physiological disease model were developed for the ALS drug development, which are normally applied in more social disease. Out-of-the-box thinking by young, non-ALS-scientist created innovative ideas to slow down the disease progression and encourage further research”.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a relentless progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes muscle weakness, disability and eventually death, with a median survival of three years. To date, there is no cure for ALS.
Treeway (@treewaytherapy) is a biotechnology company founded by entrepreneurs Bernard Muller and Robbert Jan Stuit, both diagnosed with ALS. Treeway’s strategy is founded on a cohesive combination of approaches, which together should provide the highest likelihood of bringing successful treatments for ALS to the patient in an efficient manner.
Information in this post was originally published on Treeway’s website.