Breaking News

Global Genes® Offers Free Online Courses At Its ‘Rare University’

Date: July 31, 2019

Global Genes® has free online course-offerings at its ‘Rare University.’ A valuable, featured course is entitled ‘Genetics Concepts for Rare Disease Patients and Families.’ It is a completely self-paced online course – you decide when you start and when you finish. It contains the following sections:

Genetics Concepts for Rare Disease: Eight lessons for learning about many concepts that directly relate to genetic conditions, from basic concepts such as what genes and chromosomes are, to more complex concepts such as epigenetics and multifactorial conditions.

Family and Heredity: Six lessons for learning more about the inheritance patterns associated with genetic conditions, about genetics healthcare professionals, and information about resources to help you connect with others in the rare disease community.

Genetic Testing: Seven lessons for learning about how genetic testing works, about different types of genetic tests that exist, and about different types of genetic testing providers.

Scientific Advances in Genetics and Medicine: Six lessons for learning about advances in genetics and medicine, such as gene therapy, gene editing, and human reproductive treatment advances. You’ll also be able to learn about participation in medical research, such as enrolling in clinical trials.

After registering yourself at Rare University, you have unlimited access to course offerings for as long as you like – across any and all devices you use. Rare University and its course-offerings are generously sponsored by several corporations, including Illumina®, Horizon Therapeutics PLC, Avexis, Novartis and Sanofi Genzyme.

Minnesota Senate Creates New Rare Disease Advisory Council

Date: May 30, 2019

On May 8, 2019 the Minnesota Senate unanimously passed legislation that would create a new rare disease advisory council at the University of Minnesota to facilitate the study and treatment of rare diseases. Erica Barnes, co-founder and Board Chairperson of Chloe’s Fight Rare Disease Foundation, worked tirelessly for the creation and passage of this bill. Chloe’s Fight Rare Disease Foundation is affiliated with the Lysosomal Disease Network.

The bipartisan bill, authored by Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona), created the ‘Chloe Barnes Rare Disease Advisory Council’ at the University of Minnesota. The late Chloe Barnes was born with metachromatic leukodystrophy, and was the daughter of Erica Barnes. Chloe died of metachromatic leukodystrophy at the age of two in 2010.

The work of the Chloe Barnes Rare Disease Advisory Council is to identify best practices to diagnose and treat rare diseases; to educate the public; and to advise state agencies on related policy issues. To facilitate close collaboration with experts at the University of Minnesota Medical School and the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, the Council will be established within the University of Minnesota. The Council will partner with legislators and other government leaders to provide expert opinion on the provider‐patient relationship, increase access to vital life‐saving medications and therapies, and bring cutting-edge research and technologies to Minnesota. Physicians, nurses, hospital administrators, rare disease advocacy organizations, caretakers, and patients themselves will have a seat at the table.

Senator Miller said, “Creating this new Rare Disease Advisory Council will help families receive faster diagnoses, advance groundbreaking research, and ultimately help find cures. I am especially proud of the amazing grassroots effort behind this bill. This was driven by everyday people who took a difficult situation and channeled their frustration, their grief, and their anxiety into something incredibly positive. This includes the family of Chloe Barnes and the Quimby family from Winona who lost their 5-year-old son Gavin to a rare disease. I’m proud to play a small part in their story.”

The interesting details about the membership of the Chloe Barnes Rare Disease Advisory Council and the members’ appointment-term are here (click on the “Bill Text” tab). Initial appointments to the Chloe Barnes Rare Disease Advisory Council shall be made no later than September 1, 2019.

Gene Therapy Clinical Trial for Sanfilippo Syndrome Type B (MPS IIIB) Is Underway

Date: May 30, 2019

Abeona Therapeutics, Inc. is enrolling individuals aged 6 months and older who have MPS IIIB and evidence of neurologic dysfunction in its Phase I/II non-randomized clinical trial of a one-time gene therapy with ABO-101. ABO-101 is Abeona’s designation for rAAV9.CMV.hNAGLU. The clinical trial is an open-label, dose-escalation trial of ABO-101 injected intravenously through a peripheral limb vein. Trial participants will receive a one-time intravenous injection of either high- or low-dose ABO-101. Researchers will then assess the treatment’s safety and effectiveness at six, 12, and 24 months after gene therapy administration. There are two clinic locations for this clinical trial: Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, USA; and Hospital Clínico Universitario de Santiago, in Santiago De Compostela, Spain.

NORD Issues New Rare Disease Day® Rallying Cry:
Show Your Stripes™!

Date: February 27, 2019
The zebra is the official symbol of rare diseases in the United States, and is noted for its black and white stripes, which are central to its uniqueness. Everyone has his/her own stripes, those characteristics that make each individual distinct. While each of the more than 7,000 rare diseases are unique, there are many commonalities that unite the rare disease community.

The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)®, the leading independent nonprofit organization representing the 25-30 million Americans living with rare diseases, has announced a new campaign for Rare Disease Day® centering on three simple words: Show Your Stripes™, with a call to action for people to literally and figuratively “show their stripes” in support of rare diseases leading up to and on Rare Disease Day®, which will be observed on February 28th in 2019. In the spirit of raising awareness regarding rare disease issues and celebrating Rare Disease Day, this year NORD will promote specific ways that individuals, organizations and groups can show their stripes. NORD will:

• Ask everyone to wear stripes on Rare Disease Day® to show solidarity in rare disease awareness and education, and to share that message.

• Launch a Show Your Stripes™ challenge, in which the general public will be dared to show their stripes for rare diseases as imaginatively as possible. NORD will recruit influencers – individuals, companies and organizations – to initiate the challenge by thinking of creative ways that they will show their stripes (examples we hope to see: individuals dressing up as zebras, striping a car, 400+ employees at a company all wearing stripes, striping a train car, or advertising on trains).

• Collect and share photos, stories and videos of individuals and their colleagues, friends and families all wearing their stripes together on social media using the hashtags #showyourstripes and #rarediseaseday.

• Provide a Show Your Stripes™ social media profile frame, as well as stickers, signage and other materials that can be downloaded and printed.

• Encourage the hosting of events (virtual or live) in local communities to bolster interest and knowledge for the rare disease cause.

Glycogen Storage Disease
Research Study is Enrolling

Date: December 31, 2018

Alexa Bream, a genetic counseling student at University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), is conducting a survey to examine the relationship between metabolic control, body image, and quality of life in individuals with glycogen storage disease (GSD) type 1a. The survey is available for parents of children with GSD 1a, as well as adults who have a diagnosis of GSD 1a. No personally-identifiable information will be collected and all responses will be confidential. For more information please contact Alexa Bream.

You Could Attend the
5th Conference on Clinical Research
for Rare Diseases (“CCRRD”)

Date: May 3, 2018 / Updated July 24, 2018

The Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network will convene their 5th Conference on Clinical Research for Rare Diseases (CCRRD) on November 19, 2018 in Rockville, Maryland for the benefit of new investigators, trainees, junior faculty, and others interested in rare disease research methodology. Conference attendees are encouraged to submit an abstract; abstracts are reviewed by the planning committee. The abstracts selected by the planning committee will be invited to be displayed as a poster during the conference. Four trainees with the highest-ranked abstracts will be invited to present their work orally during the meeting. Abstract submission deadline: October 22, 2018. Instructions-to-authors for abstracts and posters are here (scroll down).

The 5th CCRRD will take place at the Hilton Rockville Hotel & Executive Meeting Center. A discounted room rate is available until September 11, 2018. Attendees are responsible for making their own hotel and travel arrangements for the meeting. Use the hotel’s group-booking codes (scroll down) when making your hotel reservation.

Attendees must register for the meeting. Registration Deadline: November 12, 2018. Registration is $100 and includes: meals, refreshment breaks, and meeting materials. Travel awards up to $750 are available on a competitive basis for trainees, fellows, and junior faculty. Candidates must register for the meeting, submit an abstract, and submit their current NIH Biosketch before they can be considered for a travel award. All requests for travel awards are judged by a committee from the Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network. Travel Award recipients will be notified by November 5, 2018. The informative CCRRD flyer would look great on the bulletin boards in your research institution!

MPS Society in the UK has Appointed
Bob Stevens as its new CEO

Date: March 1, 2018

The Board of Trustees of the Society for Mucopolysaccharide Diseases in the United Kingdom (the “MPS Society”) has appointed Bob Stevens as its new CEO. Mr. Stevens was already working with Christine Lavery prior to her unexpected death, on the task of becoming prepared to lead the MPS Society after her retirement. Additionally, he has been a Trustee of The MPS Society for over 10 years. Mr. Stevens has two sons who have MPS II.

In making this appointment, Paul Moody, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the MPS Society, wrote: “The Board of Trustees have now acted decisively and quickly in implementing not only what we believe were Christine’s wishes, but also the unanimous wishes of the board of trustees.” Mr. Stevens is also the CEO of the Society’s “MPS Commercial,” its unit that works to help the pharmaceutical industry successfully perform clinical trials for the MPS diseases. MPS Commercial is a wholly-owned, not-for-profit subsidiary of the Society, whose social objectives are to invest any profits into the MPS community for the purposes of education, enhancing needs-led advocacy support, quality-of-life research and scientific research.

Christine Lavery, Chief Executive of
the MPS Society in the UK, Has Died

Date: January 19, 2018

Mrs. Christine Lavery MBE, a founder and the Chief Executive of the Society for Mucopolysaccharide Diseases (MPS Society) in the UK, died on Tuesday, December 19, 2017, following a brief illness. The MPS Society stated, “Christine has tirelessly championed the MPS Society from its very conception in the early 1980s up until her untimely death. She was a formidable lady who cared passionately for every MPS Society member, past and present. Her efforts saw her work with patients, families and professionals all over the world as she dedicated her life to improving the knowledge, advocacy support and clinical outlook for patients with MPS. We are all deeply saddened at the tragic loss of her life.” The MPS Society has announced the Christine Lavery Memorial Day at Childhood Wood, Sherwood Pines, Nottinghamshire, UK, on Saturday, June 30, 2018. To receive more details about this as they emerge, register for updates.

Mrs. Lavery was awarded an MBE for her services to metabolic diseases by HM Queen Elizabeth II in the New Year’s Honors List for 2002. At the 2006 International Symposium on Mucopolysaccharide and Related Diseases she received a ‘lifetime award’ from the International MPS Community. WORLDSymposium™ awarded Christine Lavery the 2017 Patient Advocate Leader (PAL) Award.

Mrs. Lavery was the mother of Simon Lavery, a child who had MPS II. There are some brief biographical highlights of Christine Lavery’s life at the Brains for Brain Foundation site, under the paragraph-heading “Christine Lavery Short Biography.” Prior to serving the lysosomal disease community, Mrs. Lavery volunteered for Save the Children and the International Year of the Child. That short biography reveals a lifetime of focused dedication to improving the lives of those with special needs. She is deeply missed throughout the world.

Experiment in Genome Editing
Inside a Living Person Occurred on
Monday, November 13, 2017

Date: November 16, 2017

44-year-old Brian Madeux, who has MPS II (Hunter syndrome), was the first patient to undergo an experiment in genome editing inside a living person on Nov. 13, 2017 in Oakland, California using Sangamo Therapeutics, Inc.‘s zinc finger nuclease (ZFN) genome editing technology. The procedure was performed at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. If successful, this genome editing will not repair Brian Madeux’s existing damage from MPS II, but he hopes it will end his need for weekly enzyme replacement therapy infusions.

This is a Phase 1/2 clinical trial (“the CHAMPIONS study”) evaluating SB-913, an investigational in vivo genome editing therapy. The CHAMPIONS study is an open-label clinical study designed to assess the safety, tolerability and preliminary efficacy of the SB-913 investigational genome editing therapy in up to nine adult males with MPS II. Other CHAMPIONS study sites include Minneapolis, Chapel Hill, Chicago and Philadelphia. Currently at these study sites, prospective study participants are being screened. In Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota, the Lysosomal Disease Network’s principal investigator Dr. Chester B. Whitley is conducting the CHAMPIONS study.

Two additional clinical trials are now underway in the United States to evaluate Sangamo’s in vivo genome editing therapeutics for hemophilia B and MPS I (Hurler or Hurler-Scheie syndrome). The Lysosomal Disease Network’s principal investigator Dr. Chester B. Whitley is also conducting the MPS I genome editing study at the University of Minnesota. Other sites in this MPS I study include Oakland, New York City and Cincinnati. All three trials use ZFNs designed to edit liver cells at the same location in the albumin gene, but they differ in delivering the corrective gene relevant to the respective disease. All three of Sangamo’s in vivo genome editing product candidates have received Fast Track and Orphan Drug designations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Additionally, SB-318 for MPS I and SB-913 for MPS II have received Rare Pediatric Disease designations from the FDA.

Ultragenyx Announces FDA Approval of
MEPSEVII™ (vestronidase alfa), the First Therapy
for Mucopolysaccharidosis VII

Date: November 16, 2017

On Nov. 15, 2017, Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical Inc. announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved MEPSEVII™ (vestronidase alfa), the first medicine approved for the treatment of children and adults with mucopolysaccharidosis VII (MPS VII, Sly syndrome). MEPSEVII™ is an enzyme replacement therapy designed to replace the deficient lysosomal enzyme beta-glucuronidase in MPS VII patients. The effect of MEPSEVII™ on the central nervous system manifestations of MPS VII has not been determined.

MEPSEVII™ was evaluated by the FDA with Priority Review, which is reserved for drugs that offer major advances in treatment or provide a treatment where no adequate therapy exists. Designation of a drug as “Priority” does not alter the scientific/medical standard for approval or the quality of evidence necessary. In Europe, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently reviewing the Marketing Authorization Application (MAA) for vestronidase alfa, and an opinion from the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) is expected in the first half of 2018.

“I am thrilled beyond belief to see this treatment advance after more than 40 years of work and anticipation. Thanks to Ultragenyx for making it happen,” said William S. Sly, Chairman Emeritus, Department of Biochemistry at St. Louis University, who first identified and characterized MPS VII. “I hope that this treatment will follow the other successful examples of enzyme therapy for LSDs and help improve the lives of patients with this rare disease.” Former 2016-2017 Lysosomal Disease Network fellow Michael Flanagan, PhD, had the privilege of being partly mentored by Dr. Sly during his LDN fellowship at St. Louis University.

NCATS Launches Online Toolkit
for Patient-Focused Therapy Development

Date: September 29, 2017

The NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) has launched its new Toolkit for Patient-Focused Therapy Development which provides a vast collection of online resources that can help patient advocacy groups advance through the process of therapy development. The Toolkit includes resources that have been developed primarily for the rare diseases community to facilitate therapeutics R & D. Since early 2016, NCATS has worked with a diverse group of rare diseases community partners to conduct an extensive analysis of available tools. Their hard labor defined, characterized and organized resources in a centralized portal that can be helpful to all patient groups, regardless of how far along in the research and development process they may be.

The new toolkit includes, but is not limited to:

Getting Started that focuses on learning how investigational therapies are developed; why it is important for patients and their advocates to engage throughout the process; and how to build effective relationships with other stakeholders.

Discovery Tools that aid in community organization and the prioritization of activities during the early stages of development.

Preparing for Clinical Trials Tools focused on getting patient communities ready for clinical trials.

Clinical Trials and FDA Review Tools to help connect patients to clinical trials, and to take part in the complex FDA regulatory-review process.

After FDA Approval Tools to help formulate the plan for integrating a newly-approved therapy into clinical care.

Take the time to explore the deep layers of nested links and the information they’ll take you to. NCATS has certainly produced an extremely useful, high-quality tool! What this new tool needs now — is for thousands of members of the rare diseases community to USE IT!

2017 Million Dollar Bike Ride Pilot Grant Program

Date: September 14, 2017

The University of Pennsylvania Orphan Disease Center’s 2017 Million Dollar Bike Ride Pilot Grant Program is now open! The Million Dollar Bike Ride (MDBR) Pilot Grant Program will provide a one-year grant to support research related to a rare disease represented in the 2017 Million Dollar Bike Ride. All individuals holding a faculty-level appointment at an academic institution, or a senior scientific position at a non-profit institution or foundation are eligible to respond to this RFA. Interested applicants must first submit a Letter of Interest (LOI), which is done by completing a brief online form, and uploading a 1‐page Pre‐Application. This LOI is due by Monday, September 18, 2017 by 8:00 p.m. EST. Full grant applications are accepted by invitation only after LOIs are approved.

The following lysosomal diseases were represented in the 2017 Million Dollar Bike Ride last May in Philadelphia, and their available grants are detailed:

Mucolipidosis Type IV (ML4): One $71,939 pilot grant available. This grant is offered to investigators conducting research on all aspects of ML4 disease, including disease pathogenesis and clinical studies. Preference will be given to those research projects developing new therapies for ML4, and translational research projects that improve our understanding of the disease state and pathogenesis, such as identifying biomarkers or functional outcome measures to assess therapeutic impact. This grant is made possible by the intrepid riders of Together4Ido, TeamCureML4, Climb4Carin, Pedal4Paul, Danny4theGirls, and MayaanHikes4Meira.

Mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS): Two $59,449 pilot grants are available. Applications directed to treating the central nervous system manifestations or enzyme replacement therapy antibody responses are sought. These two grants are made possible by Team MPS, the National MPS Society, and The Ryan Foundation.

Niemann Pick Type C (NPC): Two $49,645 pilot grants are available. Consideration will be given to research projects developing new therapies for NPC, as well as those designed to complement therapies presently in the pipeline. Consideration will also be given to gene therapy proposals; studies focused on problems, including psychiatric issues, impacting quality of life through the lifespan of the patient population; and projects that improve our understanding of the biology, pathogenesis and disease state and that have a direct impact on translation of new treatments to patients. These two grants are made possible by Team NPC, the Andrew Coppola Foundation, Jammin’ for JP, Chase the Cure and iPedal4Chad.

Tay-Sachs, Sandhoff, GM-1, or Canavan Disease: One $42,419 pilot grant is available focusing on forms of Tay-Sachs, Sandhoff, GM-1, or Canavan disease. Proposals are solicited for innovative research projects that involve basic research, translational studies or clinical studies relevant to these diseases. Projects may be focused on (1) pre-clinical and clinical research needs, such as clinical outcome measures, registries, animal models, or biomarkers; or (2) technology approaches such as stem cells, molecular chaperones, substrate inhibitors, small molecule drug screening, gene therapy, or novel drug delivery to the brain. This grant is made possible by Team NTSAD and the National Tay-Sachs & Allied Diseases Association.

Questions regarding the scientific content of potential research projects can be directed to Monique Molloy; administrative queries should be sent to Samantha Charleston at the University of Pennsylvania’s Orphan Disease Center.

American Academy of Neurology
Is Accepting New Research Grant Applications Now

Date: August 14, 2017

The AAN has launched an ambitious research program, furthering their commitment to make a profound difference in the lives of researchers and patients. Applications are now open for the 2018 awards. Among the opportunities is the ‘Neuroscience Research Training Scholarship‘ that provides $75,000 over two years. The award is designed for basic and translational research proposals in neurology, and eligible applicants will have completed residency or a PhD no more than five years prior to the beginning of the award. Also included is the ‘Clinical Research Training Scholarship in Neuromuscular Disease‘ that provides $55,000 per year for two years, plus a $10,000 per year stipend to support education and research-related costs, for a total of $130,000. The AAN stated “NIH funding for neurologic research has remained the same for the last four years and competition for NIH funds has intensified. The increase in the AAN fellowships has kept the dream alive for many of our clinician-researchers. AAN recipients have gone on to receive NIH funding at record levels. These awards are the first step to a broader base of support.”

WORLDSymposium™ 2018 Is Accepting Nominations!

Date: July 14, 2017
Updated on August 25, 2017

Nominations for the newly-renamed Roscoe O. Brady Award opened on July 14, 2017. The Award is presented annually to recognize substantial contributions to lysosomal disease research and therapy. The Award will be presented at WORLDSymposium™ 2018 at the opening session on Tuesday, February 6, 2018 at 7:45 a.m. The 14th Annual WORLDSymposium™ convenes February 5–9, 2018 at Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego hotel in San Diego, California. The nominations deadline was August 15, 2017.

Nominations are also being accepted for the Patient Advocate Leader (PAL) Award, which will be presented at WORLDSymposium™ on Wednesday morning, February 7, 2018, prior to the Keynote Speaker. This Award recognizes individuals contributing directly to lives of patients and families dealing with a lysosomal disease through disease awareness and education, community mobilization, non-profit development and/or good governance activities, patient care, and support programs. The nominations deadline was also August 15, 2017.


Date: July 14, 2017
Updated on August 25, 2017

Each year, trainees and recent doctoral graduates are encouraged to apply for WORLDSymposium’s Young Investigator Award that provides a partial scholarship to attend WORLDSymposium™. New this year: To increase opportunities for basic scientists to present their research, WORLDSymposium™ is offering ten (10) Young Investigator Awards specifically for Basic Science Abstracts. Graduate students and those who are within the first 3 years after completing a graduate degree are eligible. Those who submit an abstract as the first-author will be considered eligible for the award, and will be selected by the Program Committee on the basis of the content of the abstract. Abstract Submissions for the 14th Annual WORLDSymposium™ opened on July 1, 2017. The Program Committee will select awardees from the first authors of abstracts submitted by the October 1, 2017 deadline. All eligible applicants will be notified by November 15, 2017 of the status of their application for the award. The Young Investigator and New Treatment Award presentations will occur at 5:15 p.m. on Monday, February 5, 2018. This will be followed by a WORLDSymposium™ opening reception in the exhibit hall at 5:30 p.m.

The National MPS Society (U.S.) Announces
Its 2017 Research Grant Program Is Open!

Each year, the National MPS Society awards deserving medical researchers grants to pursue treatments and cures for mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS) diseases and mucolipidosis II and III (ML II / ML III). In 2016, the MPS Society awarded $485,000 in grant funding. Since 1999, nearly $7 million has been awarded to MPS and ML research.

The 2017 research grant program is now open. Letters of intent (“LOI”) are due on or before May 20, 2017, and grants will be funded in the third quarter of 2017. 2017 grant opportunities include:
• ANY MPS syndrome — $90,000 ONE grant (2-year distribution)
• MPS I (Hurler syndrome) — $60,000 ONE grant
• MPS II (Hunter syndrome) — $50,000 ONE grant
• MPS III (Sanfilippo syndrome) — $50,000 ONE grant
• MPS IV (Morquio syndrome) — $50,000 ONE grant

Register on their Applications page in order to complete the online application form. Questions can be e-mailed.

The United Kingdom’s National Institute for
Health and Care Excellence (“NICE”)
Plans April 1, 2017 Change In Drug Evaluation
& Funding Method

Date: March 28, 2017

Christine Lavery, MBE, Group Chief Executive of the MPS Society in the United Kingdom, has sounded the alarm about the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s recently-announced plan to change the arrangements for evaluating and funding drugs and other healthcare technologies assessed through NICE’s Highly Specialized Technologies (“HST”) appraisal. From April 1, 2017, NICE plans on the introduction of a £100,000 quality-adjusted life year (“QALY”) threshold for medicines evaluated via NICE’s HST program, which assesses treatments for ultra-rare diseases.

The MPS Society in the UK has responded to this plan by pointing out that this threshold will effectively stop the flow of new medicines reaching patients with ultra-rare and complex diseases. Many treatments for ultra-rare conditions that are currently funded by NHS England have costs per QALY of more than £500,000, including the three medicines that have been approved by NICE’s HST process to date. The MPS Society states that QALY thresholds are not appropriate for evaluating medicines for ultra-rare diseases, due to the small patient populations, and often limited data.

Christine Lavery said, “Being born with an ultra-rare disease, a disease affecting less than 110 people in England, is not a lifestyle choice; it is no one’s fault; it happens albeit very rarely; it happened to my son. At that time, there was no treatment and Simon died aged 7 years. I can only imagine now how it might be, to be faced with a child with an ultra-rare disease who could be treated with a highly-specialized medicine, but is denied treatment on cost grounds. The pain for the family of seeing their child condemned to death by Andrew Dillon, Chief Executive of NICE; Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England; and the UK Government, is unimaginable. Let us also be clear to Members of Parliament, many of the babies and children who will be affected by this catastrophic decision are ‘yet to be born or diagnosed’ members of your constituencies.”

MPS Society Chairman Paul Moody said, “A decision by NICE and NHS England to implement this new policy . . . will affect the most vulnerable in UK society, and confirms that children and young adults with ultra-rare diseases going forward are economic pawns in a failing NHS, and cheaper dead than alive. The UK government now needs to act at lightning speed and reverse this initial NICE & NHS England policy, not just in the context of patients with ultra-rare diseases, but also that of the life sciences industry, who will see no incentive to investing in the UK market if their innovative medicines and technologies have no prospect of reaching the patient.”

Free Diagnostic Carrier Screening
for Niemann-Pick Disease Types A & B

Date: March 22, 2017

The Quinn Madeleine Foundation, an LDN-affiliated patient advocacy group, has partnered with the Golden, Colorado-based diagnostic laboratory company Baby Genes Inc. to provide diagnostic carrier screening at no charge to hundreds of people impacted by acid sphingomyelinase deficiency (ASMD), also known as Niemann-Pick disease types A & B, which are severe lysosomal diseases. Niemann-Pick disease type A (NPA) is always fatal by toddlerhood. Providing free access to this test will enable prospective parents to make the best, most informed decisions in their family planning.

The diagnostic carrier screening program is currently open to any family member of an affected child, though it intends to go further in the future. “The long-term goal is to consider the possibility of an ethnicity pattern, identifying a higher-risk general population, and offering more widespread screening,” says Eileen Linzer, Co-Founder & Executive Director of The Quinn Madeleine Foundation. Family members screened are therefore also asked to complete an optional, self-reported “Ethnicity Survey” to assist in this research.

Consensus Conference to Convene for
Cognitive Endpoints in MPS I, MPS II and MPS III

Date: November 16, 2016

Elsa Shapiro, PhD, neuropsychologist and expert in rare pediatric diseases; Mark Dant, president and CEO of the National MPS Society (USA); and Christine Lavery, executive director of the Society for Mucopolysaccharide Diseases in the UK, have planned a program to bring experts together from around the world to establish a consensus for cognitive endpoints in MPS I, MPS II and MPS III. Such endpoints are absolutely essential for conducting clinical trials of potential treatments. The consensus conference will be held December 1-3, 2016 in London.

With support from 18 pharmaceutical companies, more than 80 doctors and psychologists from countries around the world will attend, including China, Egypt, Australia and Japan. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are sending representatives who will present. The consensus proceedings and the selected consensus panel comprised of experts in MPS, statistics and psychological assessments will be facilitated by J.H. van der Lee, MD, PhD, of the Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Participants also include the Lysosomal Disease Network’s Dr. Chester Whitley, Dr. Igor Nestrasil and Dr. Julie Eisengart, all of the University of Minnesota. A paper will be published documenting the outcome.

Dr. Elsa Shapiro Announced as Keynote Speaker at
WORLDSymposium 2017

Date: November 16, 2016

WORLDSymposium has announced that Elsa Shapiro, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics and Neurology in the Division of Pediatric Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota, is the 2017 Keynote Speaker. Dr. Shapiro’s address is entitled “Understanding and Measuring Neurodegeneration in Childhood Onset Lysosomal Diseases.” Dr. Shapiro will present the keynote address at 7:45 a.m. on Wednesday, February 15, 2017.

The Batten Disease Support and Research Association’s
2016 Research Grants Have Been Awarded

Date: October 5, 2016

The Batten Disease Support and Research Association (BDSRA) is pleased to announce its 2016 research grant awardees. BDSRA have partnered with BDSRA-Australia, Drew’s Hope, Noah’s Hope-Hope4Bridget, Beyond Batten Disease Foundation, and the Thisbe and Noah Scott Foundation to co-fund these important projects.

Background: The BDSRA annual research-merit review cycle begins in November of each year. Through a ‘Request for Letters of Intent’ that will be issued later this year, interested researchers are invited to submit a letter of intent (LOI) outlining the research they want to conduct. For the upcoming call for LOIs, BDSRA seeks innovative research projects that have the potential to advance therapeutic strategies for all or any of the neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses. Each award, depending on funding availability, will be no more than $60,000 for a one-year period. Those candidates receiving the highest scores are asked to offer full proposals, which are then reviewed by a panel of three scientists. The top proposals are forwarded to the BDSRA board for approval and funding. Put the BDSRA on your radar this autumn, if you have some innovative research you are thinking of proposing.

The 2016 BDSRA research grant awardees include:

Rebecca Whiting, The University of Missouri, “Sustained TPP1 enzyme delivery for the treatment of CLN2 disease using genetically modified autologous stem cells,” $55,000.

Imke Tammen and Dr. Christopher Grupen, University of Sydney, Australia, “Generation of a sheep model of Batten disease using the CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing system,” $50,000.

Marco Sardiello, Baylor College of Medicine, “mTOR-independent lysosomal enhancement for the treatment of neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses,” $30,000.

Tammy Kielian, The University of Nebraska Medical Center, “Link between ‘danger signals’ and inflammasome activation in the pathogenesis of juvenile Batten disease,” $40,000.

Stephanie Hughes, University of Otago, New Zealand, “Cross-correction in CLN6 Batten disease,” $40,000.

Jacob Cain, Sanford Research, “Determining the neuronal specific mechanisms of CLN3 in juvenile neuronal ceroid lipofuscinose,” $45,000.

Taina Autti, University of Helsinki, Finland, “Advanced diffusion MRI in Batten disease (CLN3): white matter microstructure and brain connectivity,” $50,000.

Steven Gray, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, “INCL gene therapy using AAV9 vectors,” $30,000.

Jonathan Mink, University of Rochester Medical Center, “BDSRA Registry,” $30,000. Dr. Mink has also been a Lysosomal Disease Network researcher, with his LDN #6717 study entitled “Clinical and Neuropsychological Investigations in Batten Disease.”

New Peer-Reviewed Article Examines
a Burgeoning U.S. Stem Cell Treatment Marketplace

Date: August 3, 2016

In a currently in-press (and online) article entitled Selling Stem Cells in the USA: Assessing the Direct-to-Consumer Industry in the journal Cell Stem Cell, authors Leigh Turner and Paul Knoepfler “found 351 U.S. businesses engaged in direct-to-consumer marketing of stem cell interventions offered at 570 clinics.” In a careful examination of marketing claims used by these 351 businesses, they found that “U.S. businesses promoting stem cell interventions claim to treat a wide range of diseases and injuries, as well as advertising stem cells for cosmetic applications, “anti-aging,” and other purposes.” In addition to “relatively specialized marketplace niches” such as cosmetic surgery clinics and orthopedic and sports medicine clinics advertising stem cell treatments, “other clinics take a much broader approach and list stem cell interventions for 30 or more diseases and injuries. Such businesses commonly market treatments for neurological disorders and other degenerative conditions, spinal cord injuries, immunological conditions, cardiac diseases, pulmonary disorders, ophthalmological diseases and injuries, and urological diseases as well as cosmetic indications.” The authors wrote that “Many of these marketing claims raise significant ethical issues given the lack of peer-reviewed evidence that advertised stem cell interventions are safe and efficacious for the treatment of particular diseases. Such promotional claims also generate regulatory concerns due to apparent noncompliance with federal regulations.”

They found many instances of stem cell marketing claims directed not at potential patients themselves, but at patients’ caregivers or parents. These included specific marketing claims for stem cell treatments for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, autism, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy. They found that marketing claims are being asserted for these and “many other conditions for which there is no established scientific consensus that proven safe and efficacious stem cell treatments now exist.” The authors’ concerns are that “This kind of advertising reveals another tangled knot of ethical and legal concerns, as the apparent target audience for such marketed interventions is not adults with decision-making capacity but rather the parents or guardians” of potential patients.

The authors’ in-depth examination of the online information provided by each of the companies they identified led them to conclude that “. . . there are clear grounds for concern that some of the companies we found are not compliant with federal regulations. There are related ethical concerns about information provided to prospective clients and the veracity of marketing claims, the safety and efficacy of advertised procedures, and the risk of physical, emotional, and financial harm to already ill or injured and vulnerable individuals.”

The International Society for Stem Cell Research offers a free downloadable .pdf Patient Handbook on Stem Cell Therapies that is available in English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish, Persian and Japanese.

The REGROW Act, sponsored by Senator Mark Kirk (IL) (U.S. Senate HELP Committee markup (“Amendment 1; document BOM 16344″)), was noted by the authors as “an example of the current push . . . for lowering safety and efficacy standards for adult stem cell-based interventions.” The National Organization for Rare Disorders (as well as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance, the Friends of Cancer Research, Global Genes, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation, the National MS Society, the National Patient Advocate Foundation and the Prevent Cancer Foundation) expressed opposition to this proposed legislation (as it is currently drafted) in a letter to Senator Kirk dated May 24, 2016. They wrote, in part, “We are concerned that the REGROW Act as currently drafted could compromise patient safety by providing “conditional approval” to products that simply show “preliminary clinical evidence of safety” as part of Phase I and Phase II trials. We are troubled that these provisions establish a new approval standard that is potentially lower than existing standards. By allowing products to be marketed as approved therapies, this implies to patients a high level of approval which is not warranted given the current requirements in the bill. We believe this proposed legislation may result in grave consequences for patients.”

Interested readers are encouraged to read the authors’ report of their extensive study of this public health issue. The authors highlight many additional aspects not mentioned here.

New Developments in Farber Disease Research

Date: July 18, 2016

Enzyvant Sciences is a new pharmaceutical company that is the product of two companies: Roivant Sciences and Plexcera Therapeutics, LLC. They have formed this joint venture to focus on the treatment of Farber disease, one of the lysosomal diseases.

At Enzyvant Sciences, it is thought that the recombinant human acid ceramidase (rhAC) program will benefit from the continued involvement of the experienced medical and scientific team from Plexcera, while gaining the pharmaceutical development expertise and financial support of Roivant. Developed in the lab of Professor Edward Schuchman, MPh, PhD, the enzyme replacement therapy rhAC showed promising results in a mouse model of Farber disease. It was initially licensed by Mount Sinai Innovation Partners, part of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, to Plexcera Therapeutics, LLC, prior to the formation of Enzyvant.

rhAC is based on more than 20 years of research conducted by Dr. Schuchman and Erich Gulbins, PhD, from the Center for Medical Biotech at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. Dr. Gulbins identified a central role for excess ceramide accumulation in cystic fibrosis and some other pulmonary diseases. rhAC may eventually be put to other therpautic uses in addition to Farber disease. Dr. Schuchman’s laboratory has been studying the biology of lysosomal enzymes, genes and diseases for more than 25 years, achieving a number of breakthroughs towards the development of novel therapies for lysosomal disorders. For example, Dr. Schuchman’s team was the first to isolate genes encoding lysosomal enzymes linked to Niemann-Pick disease types A and B, mucopolysaccharidosis type VI (MPS VI), and Farber disease.

Dr. Edward Schuchman said, “I am very excited about the future of rhAC. Similar to other enzyme replacement therapies, rhAC has the potential to be a transformative therapy for patients afflicted with Farber disease, a population with clear unmet medical needs.” Dr. Schuchman is Francis Crick Professor of Human Genetics and Vice Chairman of Research, Department Of Genetics and Genomic Sciences; and Professor, Department of Gene and Cell Medicine, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. Dr. Schuchman will continue to play an integral role in the development of rhAC. Dr. Schuchman is on Plexcera’s Board of Directors and owns an equity interest therein.

Background information: Enzyvant Press Release, background information, earlier background information.

MPS I to be added to the newborn screening panel

Date: Feb 17, 2016

The Secretary from the Department of Health and Human Services has provided final response to the ACHDNC for both X-ALD and MPS type I. She has agreed with the ACHDNC and has added both to the recommended uniform screening panel (letters here and here). The Minnesota Commissioner of Health will be notified as well so that this information can be used while he deliberates the recommendations made at the October meeting. This means that Minnesota, and a number of other states, will have the mandate to add MPS I to the newborn screening panel, each child born in the state being screened as a newborn infant.