Neurologist wins $1M prize for ALS biomarker breakthrough

A Boston neurologist has won a $1 million prize after identifying a new biomarker for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and developing a simple gadget that can help researchers track the progression of the disease.

Dr. Seward Rutkove of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center observed that as the muscles of ALS patients deteriorate, they are less capable of transmitting small electrical currents in the body. As the disease progresses, electrical impedance grows. And further animal research demonstrated that investigators could use Rutkove's device for tracking the condition as they monitored disease progression in patients.

Rutkove has founded Convergence Medical Devices, which will make the device that can quickly deliver a score on a patient's level of electrical impedance. The scores over time will provide a clear sign of disease progression, helping clinicians determine which new drugs are working. Prize4Life will deliver the prize to Rutkove this summer.  

"We created this challenge to spur the identification and adoption of a biomarker that would accelerate drug development," said Dr. Melanie Leitner, chief scientific officer at Prize4Life. She adds that Rutkove's method "goes above and beyond" the criteria Prize4Life laid out. "This biomarker has the potential to reduce the cost of Phase II clinical trials by more than 50%, and by correlating closely with disease progression, to remove one of the primary obstacles to industry investment in potential ALS therapies."

- here's the press release
- get the report from the Los Angeles Times