The coronavirus pandemic disrupted clinical trials. A top ALS researcher explains how that helps the work she’s doing.

Dr. Merit Cudkowicz

Summary List Placement
Researchers led by Massachusetts General Hospital are testing several different drugs for ALS at the same time. 
They had to delay clinical trials because of the coronavirus pandemic, but ended up finding ways to help people participate from their homes. 
Lead researcher Dr. Merit Cudkowicz expects to have answers for three of the ALS drugs by next summer.
ALS research got a boost thanks to the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” but Cudkowicz said an investment of at least $1 billion will be needed to get a new treatment. 
Because of her work, Business Insider named Cudkowicz to our annual list of the 10 leaders transforming healthcare.

Back in March, a research arm at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston was getting ready to launch an innovative, faster way to deliver results from testing new drugs.

The trial was targeting treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a deadly disease that destroys nerve cells controlling movement. Everything was ready to go. 

Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. 

Dr. Merit Cudkowicz, director of the Sean M. Healey & AMG Center for ALS at Mass General, said scientists had to recalibrate because they didn’t want to risk exposing patients to the virus. 

The Healey & AMG Center moved some visits from in-person to video, arranged for a company to visit people’s homes to draw blood, and lined up a home device they needed to test people’s breathing. The Food and Drug Administration put out new guidance, and ethics review boards became more open to in-home medical research.

It took three months for the Healey & AMG Center to get everything ready. 

As it turned out, the changes worked well for patients, Cudkowicz said. Researchers had talked about moving more parts of clinical trials into people’s homes before. The pandemic made the switch not only necessary but possible. 

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For patients with ALS — who gradually lose the ability to walk, speak, and swallow — it was a huge help to be able to cut travel. 

“It’s almost one of the few positive things out of this pandemic, because I think trials are going to be easier for people with neurological illnesses,” said Cudkowicz, who also oversees the neurology department at Mass General. She thinks it’ll remain a permanent fixture in medical research. 

Now, a dozen sites across the US are enrolling people in the ALS trials the Healey & AMG Center is leading. By the fall, they’re hoping to have all 54 planned sites running, with 480 patients taking part. 

Because of her persistence in steering forward innovative ALS research during the coronavirus pandemic, Cudkowiz is on Business Insider’s list of 10 people transforming healthcare. 

Read more: The US just made a $250 million investment in speeding up coronavirus tests. Here are the 7 companies that got the cash.

The ALS drugs are being tested simultaneously, saving time and money

Healey & AMG Center scientists were already preparing to take on a whole new way of conducting their work even before the pandemic hit. 

The …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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