In 1999, James Allen Heywood realized that a gap exists in the preclinical development of therapeutics for ALS and founded the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI) as an independent research center with a singular focus: develop effective therapeutics that slow and stop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease). As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, ALS TDI became the world's first nonprofit biotechnology company.
Between 2001-2006, ALS TDI screened more potential therapeutics for ALS than all other research labs in the world combined. In 2007, ALS TDI entered into a historic partnership with MDA's Augie's Quest. The partnership is centered around the foresight and understanding that the establishment of best practices for preclinical drug development requires significant commitment and infrastructure. The collaboration enabled ALS TDI to become a center of excellence in preclinical drug discovery and validation.
Today, the Institute maintains the most robust drug development pipeline of its kind in the world with dozens of potential treatments using a variety of therapeutic strategies. The ALS Therapy Development Institute represents a paradigm shift in the way that drug discovery and drug development is conducted for an orphan disease such as ALS.
The Young Faces of ALS
This Campaign was created by a small group of people living with ALS today who all share a disturbing characteristic - they all received their diagnoses before their 30th birthdays. Because ALS has often been categorized as a mid-to late-life disease, there was no known national recognition of ALS patients under the age of 30 prior to the establishment of YFALS. The campaign was created as a community for young ALS patients as well as their affected families and friends. YFALS has become a catalyst for accelerating research at the ALS Therapy Development Institute through fundraising events.
“For 70 years Lou Gehrig has been the face of ALS. Sadly, in that time, not a single effective therapeutic has been discovered and most Americans know little to nothing about the disease. It is time to put a new, younger, face on the disease. I hope to be that face, and raise not only awareness, but also the funding necessary to put an end to ALS,” said Corey Reich, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2007 at age 21 and has raised more than $4 million to help fund ALS research.
Corey has been a Young Faces of ALS Ambassador since the campaign’s inception in 2009. The Reich family’s network has helped organize ALS TDI’s YFALS Corntoss events in San Francisco, New York, Boise, Seattle, Washington D.C., Portland, Austin, Stockton, and Rapid City. Corey and Wendy are also big supporters of ALS TDI’s Ales for ALS program and even “helped” brew (i.e., watched) the Ales for ALS beer at two of their favorite breweries in 2013.