Hande Ozdinler, PhD, Associate Professor of Neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a faculty member at our Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine, was awarded a $3.1 million grant, over five years, from the National Institute on Aging alongside Richard B. Silverman, PhD, the Patrick G. Ryan/Aon Professor in the departments of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences at Northwestern University, best known for his invention of the blockbuster drug, Lyrica.
The grant allows Ozdinler and Silverman the opportunity to collaborate and investigate novel ALS drug therapies. “This is the largest ALS drug discovery grant Northwestern has ever received.” shares Dr. Ozdinler.
The effect of this tremendous NIA grant is two-fold, explains Dr. Ozdinler. “We will be able to put upper motor neurons into the picture of ALS drug discovery efforts. We can assess their requirements for survival and whether drug compounds improve their health. When we have that information, we would then identify new drug candidates for ALS.”
“In addition, Dr. Silverman’s expertise in drug discovery and medicinal chemistry is second to none. Our collaborative efforts are unique and have tremendous potential to overcome many of the challenges we face today,” says Dr. Ozdinler.
For Dr. Ozdinler, upper motor neurons are critical components of her research. “Even though in ALS, the upper motor neurons and spinal motor neurons progressively degenerate, upper motor neuron degeneration is a key characteristic of ALS.
We think it is important to know if the upper motor neurons like the compounds we treat them with. Making upper motor neurons happy can facilitate clinical trials and potentially help us identify novel drug candidates.”
The NIA grant comes after a decade of support Dr. Ozdinler received from the Les Turner ALS Foundation. “The Les Turner ALS Foundation has been helping my lab, not only for this grant but for the past 10 years,” says Dr. Ozdinler.
In order to begin this drug discovery research, the Ozdinler lab received a $100,000 pilot grant in 2018 from our Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine. That pilot grant, combined with funding from the Northwestern N.XT Fund, allowed the team to obtain the preliminary results required for the NIA application.
“I am forever thankful for the support I have received. I will continue to focus on forming collaborations and initiating new projects so we may accelerate ALS research,” shares Dr. Ozdinler.