Benevolent makes major breakthrough in search of cure for Motor Neuron Disease

Posted: 25 May 2017 | By Darcie Thompson-Fields

The Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) and BenevolentAI have today announced what could potentially be a major breakthrough in the treatment Motor Neuron Disease, thanks to artificial intelligence (AI).

London based Benevolent, a firm that has raised more than $87.72 million in funding since its formation in 2013, was created to harness and explore the use of technology for drug discovery with a goal to help cure life changing, or fatal diseases and conditions

The ‘ground-breaking; development for the disease, also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), follows tests at Sheffield University – one of the world’s leading centres for research into Motor Neurone Disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.

The study, led by Dr. Richard Mead and Dr. Laura Ferraiuolo at SITraN, showed the unnamed new drug is able to prevent the death of motor neurones in patient cell models and delayed the onset of the disease.

“Exciting development”

Dr. Mead commented: “This is an exciting development in our research for a treatment for ALS.  BenevolentAI came to us with some newly identified compounds discovered by their technology – two of which were new to us in the field and, following this research, are now looking very promising.  Our plan now is to conduct further detailed testing and continue to quickly progress towards a potential treatment for ALS”.

SITraN are now moving to the next phase of their research, advancing the existing study and assessing the suitability and potential for clinical development.  SITraN expect to publish an abstract at the Motor Neurone Disease Association 28th International Symposium in Boston in December 2017.

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes muscle weakness, paralysis, and ultimately, respiratory failure.  Life expectancy following diagnosis is two to five years. There are currently only two FDA approved drugs available to patients, Riluzole, approved in 1995, and Edaravone, approved only a few weeks ago.

Ken Mulvany, Founder and Chairman of BenevolentAI commented: “We understand from SITraN their research demonstrates that the hypothesis and drug candidate that our technology identified has delayed the onset of cell death in the gold standard model of ALS.  We are incredibly encouraged by these findings.  We very much look forward to the results of SITraN’s further studies and are hopeful for the positive impact that this drug could have for people living with ALS.”

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