Friday, September 14, 2012

New Mass General Center to Help Speed Development of Neurological Treatments

Mass General received a $20 million grant to establish a nationwide clinical coordinating center for testing drugs that can help people with diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The new center will be part of NeuroNext, a first-of-its-kind research network of 25 clinical centers spread across the United States. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), of the National Institutes of Health, launched NeuroNext to expand the capacity to test the most promising new therapies and increase the efficiency of clinical trials through partnerships with academia, private foundations and industry.

Acute and chronic neurological disorders impose a massive burden on patients and society. The barriers to developing innovative and successful new treatments include regulatory and institutional inefficiencies, difficulty in recruiting subjects and a shortage of individuals trained and prepared to lead multicenter trials. The new center will be designed to address such issues. The grant for its launch was made to Mass General in 2011.

Merit Cudkowicz, MD, Mass General chief of Neurology, will lead the project. She said the clinical coordinating center is reflective of other strategies NeuroNext will pursue to get new treatments for neurological disorders to patients more rapidly. “Efficiency is one of the network’s primary goals,” she said. “We hope to speed trials by seven months to a year.”

Dr. Cudkowicz has been a pioneer in training and mentoring new investigators and leading complex multicenter clinical trials in neurological disorders. She also serves as director of Mass General’s Neurological Clinical Trials Unit and ALS Center. Many of her own research and clinical activities have focused on ALS and Huntington’s disease.

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