When the ALS Society of Canada was putting together a panel of the industry’s leading experts on rodent models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), they knew they wanted someone from the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI) on the list of speakers. Dr. David Taylor, the Vice President of research of ALS Canada, says our unique approach to testing potential ALS treatments in mouse models gives us an essential perspective.

“ALS TDI holds a very special place [in the rodent model testing space],” says Dr. Taylor. “High throughput drug screening has always been something considered for lower animals like worms or fish. But they've done it for the past two decades in mice, which is very unique and special.”

ALS TDI’s Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Fernando Vieira will represent the organization on the webinar, “ALS Top Model: Runway to Success,” a recording of which will be published on ALS Canada’s YouTube channel later this month. Joining him on the panel are experts from the MRC Hartwell Institute, Temple University, and the Jackson Laboratory, who will each discuss their own work with mice and other rodent models of ALS.

Dr. Taylor says Dr. Vieira will bring an invaluable perspective to the panel because of his years of experience testing ALS therapies in mice, as well as the large numbers of treatments that ALS TDI’s testing protocols allow us to test in these models.

“Fernando's just been a huge part of the field in terms of assessing how rodent and mouse studies should be done in ALS for a very long time,” says Dr. Taylor. “The individuals who have been involved with ALS TDI have a unique perspective on understanding how the SOD1 mouse model will correlate to human disease at a level that I would say nobody else has, having screened thousands of drugs in mice.”

However, Dr. Taylor says it’s not just Dr. Viera’s expertise in mouse models that he hopes to hear about in the panel discussion – he believes that ALS TDI’s subsequent work on other models for testing ALS treatments will also be an important contribution.

“ALS TDI has also done a lot over the past decade or so to advance beyond just screening in the G93A SOD1 mouse model,” he says. “They’ve also moved on to the Precision Medicine Program, to working with other animal models, and also to IPSC cells and other ways to validate their work. So, Fernando can help provide the perspective of that journey from when we only had one model available at the time TDI started all of its work to now where we have many more options. “

The panel is part of a series of webinars organized by ALS Canada that are being published over the next several months and explore the process of ALS drug development, from testing in “lower animals” like worms and flies, to human cells, to the discovery of therapeutic targets, and finally to clinical trials. The presentations are targeted to scientists and those in the research community, however recordings are being published on ALS Canada’s YouTube channel so that a broader audience can access these informative webinars.