NeuroSense Therapeutics CEO and co-founder Alon Ben-Noon.
(photo credit: DAFNA BEN NUN)
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as motor neuron disease or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is the most common degenerative disease of the adult motor system.
While there is neither a cure nor an effective treatment to halt or reverse the progressive disease that affects approximately 700 Israelis today, Ra’anana drug development company NeuroSense Therapeutics is cautiously optimistic that pre-clinical research results delivered by its novel ALS treatment could offer those stricken with the disease renewed hope.
“I met Shai Rishoni, a neighbor of mine and a very well-known ALS patient, who was the CEO and chairman of the nonprofit organization Prize4Life,” Alon Ben-Noon, CEO and cofounder of NeuroSense told The Jerusalem Post.
“There was an immediate connection, although we communicated via computer and I never heard his voice in reality. We made the decision that I should gather the brightest brains I know in this community of biotech and do something about ALS.”
The drug developed by NeuroSense’s multi-disciplinary team is based on an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory drug. Joined together, the two compounds focus on two targets: one outside the motor neuron cells and the other inside the cells themselves.
The company has received the backing of some of the world’s leading clinicians, including Dr. Ben-Zion Weiner and Prof. Jeremy Shefner.
“We are trying to rescue the motor neuron in two ways, both in terms of the processes that are happening inside the cell itself which cause the degeneration, and... to reduce the inflammatory response from the [cell’s] surrounding,” Ben-Noon said.
While such treatment is a relatively new concept in ALS, pre-clinical studies on zebrafish at a southern Israeli research center have delivered far better results than existing drugs such as Riluzole. Researchers saw a drastic improvement in the ALS locomotor ability and observed an outstanding recovery of the degenerated motor neurons.
Accordingly, NeuroSense is planning to commence clinical trials later this year in Israel and the United States.
Zebrafish are often used for clinical testing in the central nervous system
(CNS) field due to their human-like genome sequence, optical transparency and fast reproduction rate.
Although they have been used to study drugs to combat other diseases such as Parkinson’s and epilepsy, NeuroSense believes this is a new model for ALS.
“As much as we can learn with mice, the models are not very predictive. Here, we very much hope to prove that the zebrafish results are predictive and will be shown in humans,” Ben-Noon said.
The clinical trials, he added, will clarify whether the drug can only slow down the progression of the disease, or stop it altogether. While the majority of clinicians dispute the possibility of reversing the effects of ALS, they believe patient movement can be improved.
“Most large pharma companies neglect ALS nowadays, and prefer to focus on larger markets such as cancer or, if it’s in the CNS field, it’s usually Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis,” said Ben-Noon.
“With these kind of diseases, you can work better on their symptoms and gain lots of profit. With ALS, it’s very hard to work only on symptoms, so either you find a disease-modifying drug, which is also very difficult, or you don’t play this game.”
Once clinical studies get underway, likely in the latter half of the year, NeuroSense expects to see results within 12-14 months.
“Although there still isn’t much to help someone diagnosed with ALS today, future patients should have hope because of the developments of a few companies,” said Ben-Noon. “Clinical studies, such as ours in the near future, offer hope to patients who may even receive a drug that might work for them.”
Wishing to give back something to the ALS patient community which it has worked with so closely since its establishment, NeuroSense has given the Israel ALS Research Association (IsrA.L.S), which merged with Prize4Life, a percentage of the company.
“I hope we won’t be the only ones to give something back to the community; I hope other companies will join us,” said Ben-Noon.
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