2015 Creative Approach to Disease Research Pays Off
On the same day in August that he and three other Johns Hopkins University researchers published in Science their breakthrough explanation of the cause of ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), Jonathan Ling did a Q&A session on Reddit. He said he wanted to set the record straight on whether the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge actually accomplished anything. The fundraising craze sponsored by the ALS Association raised $115 million for disease research in just six weeks in 2014 when it went viral on the Internet. It continued to raise tens of millions more in repeat donations that followed.
Ling recounted “reading a lot of stories about people complaining that the Ice Bucket Challenge was a waste and that scientists weren’t using the money to do research, etc. I assure you that this is absolutely false.” The surge of research funding from the ALS Association allowed his Johns Hopkins team to conduct high-risk, high-reward experiments that were crucial to their discovery, he reported.
It is hoped that lifesaving therapies based on the JHU findings could enter clinical trials within two or three years—and thanks to the money raised in the Ice Bucket Challenge, those expensive trials are already paid for. At any given time, about 30,000 people suffer from ALS, which kills most of its victims within a couple years of diagnosis. There is currently only one drug for treating the disease, and it quickly loses its effectiveness, extending a patient’s life only three to six months.