Project A.L.S. has announced an agreement with Eli Lilly under which the US-based non-profit will tap into Lilly’s preclinical oncology pipeline to explore new treatment options for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Under the agreement, Project A.L.S. will assess the potential of molecules developed and taken into preclinical studies for cancer by Lilly scientists in treating ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, a neurodegenerative condition that is usually fatal within two to five years of diagnosis.

Research by Project A.L.S. and two professors at Columbia University in New York, Tom Maniatis and Thomas Jessell, suggests that a number of inflammatory signalling pathways also known to be associated with cancer may play a critical role in ALS disease progression, the organisation explained.

“Chronic inflammation has long been implicated in ALS disease progression, but recent advances in areas like genomics have now made it possible to identify specific inflammatory targets for ALS drug development,” Maniatis noted.

Preclinical molecules

Lilly “robust” oncology pipeline includes several preclinical molecules targeting the signaling pathways thought to be involved in cancer and inflammation, Project A.L.S. said.

It will look at selected Lilly molecules in preclinical ALS models pioneered by the organisation over the last 15 years, to determine whether these molecules show any activity between ALS and inflammation.

“The evidence demonstrating a potential role for these cancer signalling pathways in the progression of ALS is compelling,” commented Dr Greg Plowman, Lilly’s vice president of oncology research.

“Lilly will provide well-characterised and selective molecules that we hope will help accelerate the development of medicines for ALS,” Plowman added.