New Partnership Will Advance Use of Focused Ultrasound in ALS Diagnosis and Treatment

The ALS Association and the Focused Ultrasound Foundation are partnering to advance transformational treatments for people with ALS. Leveraging a $500,000 ALS Association Partnership Grant and $500,000 in matching funds from the foundation, this new collaboration will support research into diagnosing and treating ALS using focused ultrasound technology.

Focused Ultrasound Machine

“There is an urgent need for new ways to diagnose and treat ALS. We are excited to partner with the Focused Ultrasound Foundation to learn more about how this novel technology could ultimately transform the experience of ALS,” said Dr. Kuldip Dave, senior vice president for research at The ALS Association. “Our research program is built around de-risking innovative ideas to attract follow-on funding that can move the work forward past our initial grant. By joining forces with the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, we have an even greater opportunity to pay forward more and better chances of improving the lives of people with ALS.”

For more than 15 years, the Focused Ultrasound Foundation has been dedicated to advancing the development and adoption of focused ultrasound technology. Since its inception, one of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation’s priorities has been brain research. It funded, in part, an initial clinical trial that proved it is possible to safely use magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound to temporarily, and reversibly, open the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in people with ALS. The BBB helps protect the nervous system by tightly controlling what can pass from the blood to the brain and vice versa. This groundbreaking study took place at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto and was published in Nature Communications in 2019.

The ALS Association and the Focused Ultrasound Foundation intend to build on this research by collaborating to extend up to $1 million in research funding to develop innovative treatment platforms for ALS. Novel strategies that will be considered for this funding opportunity include – but are not limited to – employing focused ultrasound–initiated BBB opening and targeted drug delivery to enhance delivery of gene therapies, viral vectors, and stem cells. Projects involving the use of BBB opening to enable liquid biopsy to help diagnose and monitor disease progression are also of interest.

“We believe that focused ultrasound could be a valuable tool in advancing the diagnosis and treatment of ALS,” said Dr. Neal F. Kassell, chairman of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation. “There is a clear unmet clinical need for these patients, and this partnership will provide critical ALS-specific expertise to the focused ultrasound community, exploring a totally new approach to facilitate drug, gene, and stem cell delivery. Moreover, it is our goal that this funding will lead to promising preliminary data that can be leveraged to secure larger investments necessary to propel the field toward clinical translation and adoption of promising therapies to make ALS a livable disease.”

A formal request for applications will be issued in the coming months. Research projects will be vetted by a designated advisory panel.