Many social media users may recall a time last summer when videos of their friends dumping buckets of cold water on their heads surfaced. It was the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge fundraising trend that took the Internet by storm in an effort to raise money for ALS research. Individuals “challenged” their friends to either donate money or dump a bucket of water on their head—or do both. All those funds are now getting put to good use.
Biogen Inc. and Columbia University Medical Center are planning to map the genes and clinical traits of 1,500 people living with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The neurodegenerative disorder is a devastating diagnosis and there is a significant lack of treatment options available to patients diagnosed with the disease. The research will be funded with part of the $115 million the ALS Association raised last year from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge .
Tim Harris, Biogen’s senior vice president of precision medicine, explained that, “a genetic map of the disease may help reveal the secrets of a disorder that’s not well understood, including how much a person’s genes contribute to the likelihood of developing ALS. The expectation is we’ll be able to find genes involved in phenotypes other than the absence of the disease, affecting things like how fast the onset was, or how quickly it progresses.”
About 30,000 Americans have the disorder according to the ALS Association and there are no approved treatments that can change the course of the disease. The only option is medications that help manage symptoms. ALS is a progressive disorder that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Patients in late stages oftentimes become paralyzed as a result.
Biogen is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has been working on ALS research for years already. After an experimental treatment failed in the final stage of testing in 2013, the company has been back in the lab working on a new drug candidate to start testing by the end of this year. Other companies have also received funds from the ALS Association to begin research. Roughly $77 million of the Ice Bucket Challenge funds will be used for researching drugs. Academic researchers and companies will use the money for early-stage research while the association reserves the remaining money for promising treatments down the road.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge offers two lessons for investors. Sometimes investors want to see their money used in charitable organizations. While not everything on the Internet is true, the Ice Bucket Challenge funds are effectively fueling progress in scientific research. Sometimes even a small contribution can make a big difference. Additionally, advances in ALS research and treatment means opportunities in the biotech industry, which continues to grow. If you’re interested in finding new investment opportunities that include the biotech industry, or want to fit charitable donations into your budget—even in a small way—contact an advisor at Apex Financial Advisors today. We can help build and protect your wealth and meet your specific financial goals.