ALS Drug Entrepreneurs Developed Idea in Dorm Room and Self-Funded the Early Development

(p. B3) An experimental drug slowed the paralyzing march of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in a clinical trial, according to researchers who say the results are a fresh sign that recent insights into the condition may soon bring new medicines.

. . .

The idea for the drug came to Amylyx Chief Executive Josh Cohen, he said, while he was a Brown University junior in 2012 and 2013 majoring in biomedical engineering and reading scientific papers on how neurons die.

Mr. Cohen told Mr. Klee, whom he had first met playing club tennis in college. Mr. Klee, a neuroscience major, spent the following night reading up on his friend’s idea.

“We did what most people in our generation do” when trying to learn about a topic, Mr. Klee said. “We went to the Internet. We Googled it.”

The research shed light on some molecular routes that neurodegeneration follows, which Mr. Cohen said sparked his interest in combining drugs that attacked two important pathways. The problem was, each drug alone hadn’t worked in studies.

Unfamiliar with both drug research and the industry, Messrs. Cohen and Klee sounded out experts, including Dr. Cudkowicz, to learn how to test their hypothesis in a laboratory, start a company and conduct testing in patients.

Their project took off after the pair scraped together $6,000 from personal savings and family donations to pay contract researchers in Finland, who found their combination drug worked in a petri dish.

Mr. Cohen took all his courses during his final year of college on Thursdays so he could devote the rest of the week to Amylyx.

Mr. Klee, who had moved to Cambridge, Mass., after graduating, took odd jobs coaching swimming, working as a research technician and participating in medical-research studies to earn money for the fledgling startup then based in his apartment.

The company, based in Cambridge, had three employees last March and seven today, but plans to add 100 employees next year.

For the full story, see:

Jonathan D. Rockoff. “ALS Drug Shows Promise in Study.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, December 17, 2019): B3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date as the print version, and has the title “ALS Drug Works in Study, Researchers Say.” The sentences quoted after the ellipsis above, appear in the online, but not in the print, version of the article.)

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