Boston- The Sean. M. Healey & AMG Center for ALS at Massachusetts General Hospital through the generosity of Drs. Shelena and Ayeez Lalji, is delighted to announce that Deland Liu, PhD student in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), has been awarded the inaugural 2023 Drs. Ayeez and Shelena Lalji & Family Student Scholar for Repair and Regenerative Mechanisms in ALS. The award was announced at ALS One’s Annual ALS Symposium Industry Day on November 16th.

The award was founded in 2023 in honor of Dr. Ayeez Lalji, who was diagnosed in 2017 and is still bravely and valiantly living with ALS. This award aims to recognize the brightest young scientists in the field of ALS, and to facilitate meaningful research to understand the mechanisms underlying axonal and neuronal repair and regeneration in ALS and/or other neurodegenerative disorders that may be translatable to ALS.

“Young bright minds see opportunities not obstacles. They focus on solutions instead of getting stuck on the problems” said Shelena Lalji, F.A.C.O.G. “My family and I hope to inspire our young scientists to take on ALS and find biological and technological solutions to return true function to people valiantly living with this disease. We are happy to support novel, innovative ideas”

Under the supervision of his professor, José Millan, PhD, Deland is recognized as the Lalji Student Scholar for his project integrating artificial intelligence (AI) modules (language models and reinforcement learning) in brain-computer interfaces (BCI) to restore efficient communications for ALS patients. His project exemplifies innovation and understanding of the fundamental knowledge and technology needed to make strides in the fight against ALS.

“I express my sincere gratitude to Drs. Lalji and Cudkowicz for this incredible recognition” said Liu. “I am grateful to the support and help from my supervisor, Prof. José del R. Millán, and my lab members. We are inspired by the motivational stories of people fighting against ALS, and we are driven to develop effective treatments and improve their quality of life.”

“I offer my sincere congratulations to Deland, and thanks to Drs. Ayeez and Shelena Lalji for making this award possible” said Merit Cudkowicz, MD, MSc, Director of the Healey & AMG Center for ALS and Chief of the Department of Neurology at MGH. “It is young scientists like Deland who will lead the ALS field and contribute to the major breakthroughs we need to cure this disease.”

This award is available to undergraduate, graduate, or summer students focused on studying mechanisms of axonal repair, neuronal repair and regeneration applicable to ALS and/or other neurodegenerative disorders. The students must be conducting research, under the direction of a mentor.

For more information on the Drs. Ayeez and Shelena Lalji & Family Student Scholar for Repair and Regenerative Mechanisms in ALS, please click here. For more information on the Sean M. Healey & AMG Center for ALS, please visit our website. To learn more about the Lalji Family’s inspiring journey and for more information on the Lalji ALS Foundation, please visit https://alsheroes.com/

Background on ALS
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, is the most prevalent adult-onset progressive motor neuron disease, affecting approximately 30,000 people in the U.S. and an estimated 500,000 people worldwide. ALS causes the progressive degeneration of motor neurons, resulting in progressive muscle weakness and atrophy. There are currently few FDA therapies approved for treating ALS—riluzole, edaravone (IV and oral formulation), sodium phenylbutyrate/taurursodiol, and tofersen. Dextromethorphan/quinidine is also used for the symptomatic treatment of pseudobulbar affect (PBA) in people with ALS.

 About the Sean M. Healey & AMG Center for ALS at Mass General
At the Sean M. Healey & AMG Center for ALS at Mass General, we are on a quest to discover life-saving therapies for all individuals affected by ALS. Launched in November 2018, the Healey Center leverages a global network of scientists, physicians, nurses, caregivers, people with ALS and families working together to accelerate the pace of ALS therapy discovery and development.

Under the leadership of Merit Cudkowicz, MD and a Science Advisory Council of international experts, we are reimagining how to develop and test the most effective therapies to treat the disease, identify cures and, ultimately, prevent it.

The key to our success is our tightly integrated research and clinical efforts, encouraging opportunities to bring the challenges our patients face every day into our laboratories, focusing investigations on finding solutions that will make a meaningful difference to our patients without delay. Our collaborative efforts are designing more efficient and effective clinical trials while broadening access to these trials for people with ALS.

For more information on the Sean M. Healey & AMG Center for ALS and the Neurological Clinical Research Institute, please visit our website.