The Golden West Chapter presents the Essey Commitment to Cures Award to individuals and companies who champion drug discovery and development in the relentless pursuit of treatments and cures for people with ALS and related diseases. The Chapter is proud to recognize Biogen with the Essey Commitment to Cures Award for its development of a pipeline of ALS therapies currently in investigational trials, which includes its active phase 3 trial for Tofersen (BIIB067) and its recently announced phase 1/2 trial for a treatment for sporadic ALS (ION451), both in collaboration with Ionis Pharmaceuticals.
Biogen’s robust program in ALS research and therapy development is inspiring and encouraging. Biogen has long been considered a pioneer in neuroscience, whose focus is to discover, develop, and deliver worldwide innovative therapies for people living with serious neurological and neurodegenerative diseases as well as related therapeutic adjacencies. One of the world’s first global biotechnology companies, Biogen was founded in 1978 by Charles Weissmann, Heinz Schaller, Kenneth Murray, and Nobel Prize winners Walter Gilbert and Phillip Sharp. As of today, the company has the leading portfolio of medicines to treat multiple sclerosis, has introduced the first approved treatment for spinal muscular atrophy, commercializes biosimilars of advanced biologics, and is focused on advancing research programs in multiple sclerosis and neuroimmunology, neuromuscular disorders, movement disorders, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, pain, ophthalmology, immunology, neurocognitive disorders, and acute neurology.
In October 2020, Biogen also announced a research partnership with Scribe Therapeutics to develop new gene therapies for ALS using CRISPR-Cas9. This transformative gene editing system was discovered by Scribe co-founder Jennifer Doudna, PhD, who is affiliated with three notable California-based research organizations and was awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier, PhD.
Dr. Toby Ferguson, who is a frequent contributor at the annual California ALS Research Summit, will receive the award on behalf of Biogen.
Toby Ferguson is a neuromuscular neurologist and neuroscientist who joined Biogen in 2013. His professional experience has been focused on developing treatments for ALS and neuromuscular disease. He plays a key role in developing ALS clinical trials and in driving preclinical strategy. His group also works closely with the scientific biomarker and commercial teams at Biogen, Ionis, and other external collaborators. Together, these teams are working to identify novel disease targets and to develop the needed tools for efficient clinical development. At Biogen, Toby has advanced multiple programs into the clinic for ALS, DM1, and Parkinson’s disease. In ALS, one program (tofersen for SOD1 ALS) is in the final stages of clinical trials, and multiple others are in early testing, including a program for C9ORF72 ALS and two programs for the broader ALS population.