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Biogen Idec consortium looks to identify new approaches for treating ALS

Biogen Idec Inc. said Thursday that it has formed a consortium with several academic research centers that looks to identify new approaches to treating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

In a press release, Weston-based Biogen Idec said that it has committed more than $10 million over three years to fund research projects by members of the consortium. The initiative will complement a collaboration the company announced earlier this year with Duke University and the Hudson Alpha Institute to sequence the genomes of 1,000 people living with ALS.

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“ALS research is a primary area of focus for Biogen Idec, but has proven to be a very difficult disease to understand and treat,” Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas, the company’s senior vice president and chief scientific officer, said in a statement.

Artavanis-Tsakonas(left), who is also a professor of cell biology at Harvard Medical School, added: “We believe that taking a holistic approach that explores the many variables involved in the development and progression of ALS will speed our ability to identify viable drug targets that can be moved into testing. We are hopeful that the assembly of this extraordinary group will allow unprecedented insights and define a new level of synergy between academic research and Biogen Idec.”

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and motor neuron disease, is a universally and rapidly fatal neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive muscle weakness and wasting. ALS affects adults in the prime of life and creates a substantial burden for caregivers. Worldwide incidence of ALS is approximately two people per 100,000.

Chris Reidy can be reached at reidy@globe.com.
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