RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C.—Metabolon Inc. in early April announced it received a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) for its continued research into the discovery of biomarkers for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. It is the third such funding the company has received for its work in this area.
"We began our work in ALS quite a long time ago, mostly because one of the original founders of the company was interested in neurodegenerative dieseases," says John Ryals, CEO of Metabolon, based here. "While the potential drug market is not large, we have generated some interesting results as a result of our work."
Under the latest grant, Metabolon will use its metabolomics platform to test plasma samples from patients to identify biomarkers of ALS. As part of the work, the company will compare these biomarkers with biomarkers from other neurodegenerative diseases to determine if the ALS signature is unique or common to related disorders. Metabolon will also study how biomarkers for ALS change with disease progression.
The ultimate goal of the research, according to information from the ALS Association, is to create a definitive diagnostic test to identify ALS. Currently, diagnosis of the disease is difficult and is more often the result of ruling out other diseases than of positively identifying ALS.
"There is an urgent need to find a faster and more reliable diagnostic process that will enable earlier treatment and improve chances that therapy will alter the course of ALS," said Dr. Lucie Bruijn, science director and vice president of the ALS Association, regarding funding it provided Metabolon last year.
For Metabolon, identifying biomarkers for ALS and creating a diagnostic test, as opposed to creating new therapeutics, strikes at the core of the company's future direction, according to Reid Tripp, vice president of business development. "Our technology is very adept at finding diagnostic biomarkers, so we are looking down that path for the future," he says. "How we will commercialize that is something we as a company are still trying to determine. We will also be identifying biomarkers in other areas as we develop our intellectual property portfolio."