The N.XT Frontier of ALS Research at Northwestern

Professor Hande Ozdinler’s visualizations of upper motor neurons in ALS mouse at different scales.

For more than 30 years, Northwestern University has been working to unlock the puzzle of ALS. The University’s unique strength in battling the progressive neurodegenerative disease arrives from a range of dedicated researchers, including Teepu Siddique, MD (Feinberg), who spearheaded the creation of a “research standard” model systemfor ALS now licensed by researchers around the globe.

Professor Richard Silverman (Weinberg), the world-renowned chemist who developed the pharmaceutical now marketed as Lyrica, and Assistant Professor Hande Ozdinler (Feinberg), an expert on upper motor neuron biology, are now driving the University’s latest potential game–changing ALS innovation. The promising early effort combines Ozdinler’s novel approach for visualizing motor neurons in the brain with Silverman’s compounds designed for the inhibition of protein aggregation, one of the hallmarks of ALS.

Silverman and Ozdinler are now taking their next research steps—more extensive in vitro studies and, later, in vivo animal studies—as the first recipients of a capital infusion from the University’s $10 million N.XT fund, designed to support Northwestern’s early–stage innovations and propel commercial development.

While no ALS drug has successfully emerged from clinical trials over the last two decades, Silverman and Ozdinler look to reverse that trend with their novel approach to drug discovery. By focusing on the health of the brain’s motor neurons, the researchers’ interdisciplinary collaboration represents the start of a paradigm shift in preclinical studies and drug discovery in ALS as well as other motor neuron diseases.



“Research often reaches a point in which the money runs out and once-promising projects
fall into the valley of death. With the N.XT fund, Northwestern is providing a bridge to
help innovative projects move on to later-stage development that can lead to additional
investment and potential commercialization.” — Nick Maull, Assistant Director of New Ventures, INVO
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