Biogen is linking hands with the ALS Association and Columbia University Medical Center in a collaboration that strives to better understand the genetics behind the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

The progressive condition affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, ultimately leading to total paralysis and death just two to five years from diagnosis. There is no cure and no life-prolonging treatment for the disease, which comes in many different forms.

The Genomic Translation for ALS Clinical care (GTAC) project will involve a combination of next generation genetic sequencing and detailed clinical phenotyping in 1,500 people with ALS, to uncover differences and similarities in the disease process and how different genes contribute to different forms of the condition.

Ultimately, the goal is to provide a basis for the development of precision medicine, helping to shape better, more focused clinical trials for the development of more effective and personalised treatments, the groups said. 

The project is being funded through Biogen’s $30 million strategic alliance with CUMC and $3.5 million from the ALS Association, coming directly from funds raised by last year’s Ice Bucket Challenge, which brought a whopping $115 million to the charity.