Your Giving Keeps Us Going – and directly helps families! #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday is Here!

Here in the US we celebrated Thanksgiving this past weekend.  It’s a time of family, thanks, and giving.  Most of us “gave” at the mall on Black Friday or online on Cyber Monday … but now it’s #GivingTuesday, an annual day where the world comes together to give.

November is MLD Foundation’s second busiest travel and meeting time … so much so that we have yet to decompress and summarize all that we have done. Your generous gifts are what enables us to work on your behalf!

We’ve Been Busy!

We’ll send out some summary postings over the next few weeks, but in the meantime, here are a few highlights of our last 60 days …

  • We are working with yet another drug company on a MLD therapy … and one therapy might see an FDA registration next year!
  • MLD gene therapy has a new owner, Orchard Therapeutics … and they are moving much more quickly than the prior owner.
  • The MLD newborn screening pilot study is making great progress and we are preparing to launch in another state in a few months.
  • Met with a pharma partner to help advance an ongoing genotype-phenotype study they have underway,  This will be important to try to determine what form of MLD progression is expected if a baby is diagnosed at birth … and potentially for those diagnosed with early symptoms too.
  • Attended the annual Rare Diseases and Orphan Products Breakthrough Summit sponsored by NORD.
  • Met with industry, BIO, and numerous advocacy organizations to drive collaboration on rare disease policy – especially for ACA and Orphan Drug Tax policy issues.
  • Met with another Pharma company who detailed to us some success and roadblocks for their therapy development.

And Most Importantly …

  • Continued our Compassion support for families … recently on the phone and in person in California, Maryland, Colorado, and even Perth Australia, and around the globe via email and social media. We’ve recently helped families get confirming diagnostics, make therapy decisions (including gene therapy, stem cell transplant, and no therapy), connect with clinical resources, obtain wheelchair vans and other equipment, and have been a source of direct financial support when unexpected expenses have arisen.

Please remember to give on #GivingTuesday to support MLD Foundation! There are no salaries paid here – all donations go directly to Compassion support for families and to advance MLD Research and Awareness.

http://mldfoundation.org/donations.php

 

Thank You!

Your Giving Keeps Us Going and directly helps families! #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday is Here!

Here in the US we celebrated Thanksgiving this past weekend.  It’s a time of family, thanks, and giving.  Most of us “gave” at the mall on Black Friday or online on Cyber Monday … but now it’s #GivingTuesday, an annual day where the world comes together to give.

November is MLD Foundation’s second busiest travel and meeting time … but this month we had an exceptionally busy time supporting families as well. Your generous gifts are what enables us to work on your behalf!

We’ve Been Busy!

We’ll send out some summary postings over the next few weeks, but in the meantime, here are a few highlights of our last 60 days …

  • We are working with yet another drug company on a MLD therapy … and one therapy might see an FDA registration next year!
  • MLD gene therapy has a new owner, Orchard Therapeutics … and they are moving much more quickly than the prior owner.
  • The MLD newborn screening pilot study is making great progress and we are preparing to launch in another state in a few months.
  • Met with a pharma partner to help advance an ongoing genotype-phenotype study they have underway,  This will be important to try to determine what form of MLD progression is expected if a baby is diagnosed at birth … and potentially for those diagnosed with early symptoms too.
  • Attended the annual Rare Diseases and Orphan Products Breakthrough Summit sponsored by NORD.
  • Met with industry, BIO, and numerous advocacy organizations to drive collaboration on rare disease policy – especially for ACA and Orphan Drug Tax policy issues.
  • Met with another Pharma company who detailed to us some success and roadblocks for their therapy development.

And Most Importantly …

  • Continued our Compassion support for families … recently on the phone and in person in California, Maryland, Colorado, and even Perth Australia, and around the globe via email and social media. We’ve recently helped families get confirming diagnostics, make therapy decisions (including gene therapy, stem cell transplant, and no therapy), connect with clinical resources, obtain wheelchair vans and other equipment, and have been a source of direct financial support when unexpected expenses have arisen.

Please remember to give on #GivingTuesday to support MLD Foundation! There are no salaries paid here – all donations go directly to Compassion support for families and to advance MLD Research and Awareness.

http://mldfoundation.org/donations.php

 

Thank You!

Always Thankful !!!

We are thankful …

  • for you,
  • your support,
  • and all of the MLD progress this year!

Teryn and I are so thankful for the wonderful people we meet as we both live with MLD (Lindy turned 38 this year!) and support families with MLD. We’ve met dozens of new families this year, many in person, as we answer questions and provide guidance on therapies and clinical care.  We’ve followed the journey with other families who lost their loved ones this year –while sad, it’s a great time of sharing and support. And, we are working with an even better and bigger team of researchers and biotech/pharma partners to get therapies to market!


We’ll provide more details on 2018’s highlights in our December update, but here are a few key items:

  • We are working with yet another drug company on a MLD therapy … and one therapy might see a FDA registration next year!
  • MLD gene therapy has a new owner, Orchard Therapeutics … and they are moving much more quickly than the prior owner.
  • The MLD newborn screening pilot study is making great progress and we are preparing to launch in another state in a few months.

If your inbox is anything like mine, it’s full of requests for support.  Nevertheless, we want to gently remind you that we need your support too! .. and we want to make it easier than ever, too.

Amazon Smile donations are FREE to YOU and are now easier than ever!  In the past, we have asked you to bookmark and start your shopping at  https://Smile.Amazon.com every time you shop at Amazon.  When you start there Amazon donates 0.5% of the value of your order to MLD Foundation at no cost to you.  While this still works, it turns out that most folks forget to start at the Smile page.  Now we have a couple of browser extensions you can load and they will automatically make sure we get credit for your order every time.  Simply load them once and shop!

Of course, a regular donation is always appreciated.

YOUR generous help makes our work possible. All of your donation goes to advance our We C.A.R.E.™ mission … no salaries are paid at MLD Foundation.

Thank You!


Safari Extension Installation Instructions.

Please note that we are working to make this process automated and IOS compatible. Right now it works only on laptops and desktops.

  1. Go to Safari->Preferences->Advanced
  2. Check “Show Develop menu in menu bar”
  3. Go to Safari->Show Extension Builder
  4. Click on the “+” on bottom left and choose “Add Extension…”
  5. Choose the KeepOnSmiling.safariextension folder inside the folder you just downloaded using the provided link (inside your Downloads folder).
  6. Choose “Install”

For more information visit MLDfoundation.org or email us at info@MLDfoundation.org

GSK Launches Phase 3 Cryopreserved Gene Therapy Clinical Trial

New Clinical Trial for MLD

GSK has just launched a Phase 3 clinical trial to study the efficacy of a cryopreserved formulation of their gene therapy, i.e. freezing the modified cells before transfusion.

Recruiting of pre-symptomatic late infantile and early juvenile patients will start immediately.

This study still requires patients to travel to Milano, Italy for their transplant – similar to how previous patients have accessed the San Rafaelle gene therapy.

Laying The Groundwork for Sites in Other Countries

Most notable is that this trial lays the groundwork for patients to eventually access the gene therapy in a local medical center outside of Italy.  Their cells will still be genetically modified in Italy – the cryopreservation allows for international transport of the modified cells.  In the USA, the next step would be a New Drug Application (NDA) to seek approval for offering the gene therapy in the USA.

Inclusion criteria can be found here. We are happy to discuss this trial and inclusion criteria with any of you tat think you may be eligible.  We know the Principal Investigator in Italy well and can help you with the referral process to assess eligibility.

Deeper Dive

For those of you wishing to dig  little deeper, here’s a good article about gene therapy cyropreservation  – in general, not necessary reflecting the the GSK/San Rafaelle flow or specific issues.

Please subscribe to this blog (button in the upper right part of this page – if you are reading this in email you are already subscribed!) to be kept up to date on this new Clinical Trial.

Your Giving Keeps Us Going! #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday is Here!

Here in the US we celebrated Thanksgiving this past weekend.  It’s a time of family, thanks, and giving.  Most of us “gave” at the mall on Black Friday or online on Cyber Monday … but now it’s #GivingTuesday, an annual day where the world comes together to give.

November is MLD Foundation’s second busiest travel and meeting time … so much so that we have yet to decompress and summarize all that we have done. Your generous gifts are what enables us to work on your behalf!

We’ve Been Busy!

We’ll send out some summary postings over the next few weeks, but in the meantime, here are a few highlights of our last 60 days …

  • Teryn was an invited panelist to a Social Security Administration event on SSI Compassionate Allowances where she presented the case to add juvenile and adult MLD to the CAL … and also insight on how SSA can be more effective n supporting families.
  • Attended the annual Rare Diseases and Orphan Products Breakthrough Summit sponsored by NORD.
  • Met with industry, BIO, and numerous advocacy organizations to drive collaboration on rare disease policy – especially for ACA and Orphan Drug Tax policy issues.
  • Met with another Pharma company who detailed to us, for the first time, the details of their internal development work on MLD.  That makes 3 companies who have active MLD projects plus at least two more we cannot name just yet.
  • Hosted a MLD Newborn Screening Summit in Philadelphia with some 40 experts attending to focus our collaborative efforts to get MLD newborn screening (NBS) going in the US and abroad.  The lab test results for the proposed screen are looking very good but there is much to do to get this ready for population-wide public health implementation.
  • Met with a well respected and very knowledgable doctor/researcher who is anxious to pursue more MLD work … and is an active advisor/consultant for pharma and biotech investors.
  • Working to bring two more strains of MLD mice to the US from Germany. MLD Foundation brought the first strain to the US in 2011.
  • Continued our Compassion support for families … on the phone, in person in Philadelphia and Boston, and around the globe via email and social media. We’ve recently helped families get confirming diagnostics, make therapy decisions, connect with clinical resources, obtain wheelchair vans and other equipment, and have been a source of direct financial support when unexpected expenses have arisen.
  • We even provided video and live streaming support for GLIA, the Global Leukodystrophy Initiative so leukodystrophy researchers can better collaborate.

Please remember to give on #GivingTuesday to support MLD Foundation! There are no salaries paid here – all donations go directly to Compassion support for families and to advance MLD Research and Awareness.

http://mldfoundation.org/donations.php

 

Thank You!

Minnesota at Rare Disease Week on the Hill

Last year when I read Kim Brown’s blog on her experience on the Hill for Rare Disease Week 2016, I told my husband, Trevis, that I wanted to go to Washington DC in 2017 and be an advocate for our precious son, Thomas, who left this earth to become an angel in October of 2015.  After seeing all of the emails from Dean and Teryn Suhr of MLD Foundation and after visiting in person with them and Christine Hoffman when they all made a trip to Minneapolis, I applied for a stipend through EveryLife Foundation and soon I found myself booking flights for DC.  I convinced my husband Trevis to come as well and the next thing we knew we were on our way to DC not really knowing what kind of experience that we would have.

We arrived into DC in the afternoon of Monday, February 27 and met up with Dean and Teryn Suhr and Eric and Christine Hoffman, fellow MLD parents, for the viewing of Rare Disease Documentary Screening of Up For Air at the United States Naval Heritage Center.  The movie was very nicely put together regarding an individual who was living with Cystic Fibrosis, and his journey through the disease.   After a late dinner and lots of travel, we were ready for bed as we knew we had another busy tomorrow learning about all of the policies that we were advocating for in our meetings on the Hill on Wednesday.

Tuesday morning we went to the day-long RDLA Legislative Conference, hoping they would teach us what to say to our Congress men and women on Wednesday.  When we got there we were inundated with a lot of information about current policies affecting the rare disease community.  Specifically they talked about what needed to be included in the Affordable Care Act Replacement Plan to not harm rare disease patients going forward, the Rare Disease Congressional Caucus and its importance, rationale for increased funding related to the National Institute of Health (NIH) and Federal Drug Administration (FDA), and the support of the OPEN ACT.  By the end of the day we felt prepared for our meetings with our Congress men and women on Wednesday.  In the afternoon we were able to go to a breakout session where they taught us how to tell our story which included our plug for why we needed their support within 90 seconds.  We also got to meet other constituents from the State of Minnesota as we would spend most of the day with them on Wednesday telling our story and making our asks of our state Legislatures.

That evening and during the day we were able to meet other MLD families as there were 14 of us representing MLD this year.  It was pretty amazing and let me say our MLD families are awesome, I might be a little biased!  We learned a lot on Tuesday and we were ready for the Hill on Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 1 we got up bright and early for breakfast before they sent us off to the Hill.  We met up with our MN team right after breakfast and headed to our first meeting.  We all had our 90 second elevator speech ready for our meetings with our specific “asks”.  Brett Robertson, a MLD dad, was in our group from MN, but even though we had similar stories our “asks” were very different, which made our meetings even more impactful.  Everyone in our group had their opportunity to present their story and articulate their “ask” to the congressional staffer and/or the Representative or Senator.  We were most interested in obtaining funding for the NIH and FDA, so that we can continue to search for cures for this awful disease.  At every meeting that we had, we left a letter that told Thomas’ Story in more detail along with our specific asks, which of course had pictures of our sweet boy.

As we moved from meeting to meeting we were lucky to get our own tour of the House side of the Capital with former Congressmen Brian Baird from the state of Washington.  Brian is a Board Member of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Advocates as his father passed away from this disease and Paul Fogelberg, who is from MN, the founder of Pulmonary Fibrosis Advocates was also in our group. Paul and Brian have been on the Hill many, many times advocating for rare diseases, which made our meetings even better as they both were able to add pertinent color to emphasize to the Staffer or the Congressmen important issues worthy of their consideration as it relates to the rare disease community.  Our team was a well-oiled machine by the time we went to our last meeting.

Before we headed back to our hotel room, we attended the Rare Artist Reception where we were able to view spectacular art created by artists with Rare Diseases.  We were amazed at the talent that we have in the rare disease community.  Each piece had a unique story, which made it even more amazing.

Overall Rare Disease Week on the Hill was incredible and truly life changing.  It was a very emotional couple of days, but knowing that we were advocating for not only our MLD families, but also the Rare Disease Community as a whole gave us a sense of accomplishment and us asking ourselves what more we can do for the rare disease community.  Thomas is no longer with us, so we now have to continue his legacy and to be his voice for all of the other kiddos and families in the United States that are fighting rare diseases.  We need to continue to fight for cures!  I would encourage all of the MLD families to start planning now to make it to Rare Disease Week on the Hill in 2018.  It was an amazing experience!

Laura & Trevis Alberts

Our first Rare Disease Week in DC


At the 2016 MLD Family Conference a conversation with Dean led to a decision to attend the Rare Disease week.
It was a first visit for wife Nancy and I to Rare Disease week and a pleasure for us to assist daughter Michelle in attending this year.

Last year she had planned to attend but her daughter Emily had been admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital so Kim Brown had to pave the way and the great job she did encouraged us . Having visited DC all the way back to 1968 and many times since, I can conclude that big government is definitely in vogue.
Our first challenge was finding the right hotel and transportation and as always Dean came to the rescue. We stayed in Arlington Hilton Garden Inn based on one caveat, they gave us a reservation that could be cancelled at the last minute, no charge. Michelle was a suspect attendee based on her stroke and cancer recovery status but she was able to recover sufficient to make the trip. We used the metro to transfer from the hotel to meetings and soon were comfortable with travel inside the beltway. My recommendation would be to use Uber (what a great innovation in free and fair trade) to avoid any walking and searching for buildings in the rain.

We attended the RDLA Legislative Conference on Tuesday, which was a series of presentations related to rare disease issues apart from one political speech in support of the ACA which is an oxymoron. Most of the presentation related to current issues of interest to the advocacy community. The room was packed with attendees and the presentations were helpful in preparing us for the next day.

We met and heard some people from NC who had significant experience in advocacy and the group that we participated in helped navigate us through the halls of the senate and congress during our representative visits on Wednesday. We were prepared that we would not get to visit face to face with our representatives and that senior staffers were equally important.

I did see a number of senators in the basement as they departed the subway to the capitol building including Elizabeth Warren who smiled at Michelle as she was being pushed by me but had an MA Rare Disease badge on. My disappointment at not seeing any senator or congressman in our office visits was more than countered by the magnificent scene on Tuesday’s TV appearance of Megan Crowley* in POTUS’ message to a joint session of Congress and the first time ever Presidential recognition of Rare Disease Day!

In summary, it was a great experience and one we will repeat again next year, Lord willing. For many years I have lamented my lack of involvement in the MLD lobby. Dean and Teryn have carried the baton alone too long. This year was a manifold increase from Kim Brown’s sole visit last year. I hope that next year we will have an MLD hotel block rate to encourage participation.

Maybe Trump will attend 😊

 

Farewell, Adios, Ciao, Au Revoir, Sayonara and Zàijiàn,

Tony Hodgson for Michelle Hodgson Pierce and Nancy Hodgson

* Megan Crowley, her father John and the rest of her family were featured in the 2010 film, Extraordinary Measures.

A Call for Rare Facts Unity & Consistency

It’s Our Opinion …

I presented this poster at the NIH’s Rare Disease Day event earlier this week (2/27/17).  In short, to maximize impact and credibility, we are asking all organizations – government, advocacy, industry/pharma, academia, etc. to be consistent with their public sharing of Rare Disease facts.

I realize that sometimes we must be very scientific about things, but for basic Rare Disease awareness, where there are no absolute numbers, we need to be consistent in order to be most credible and impactful.

We suggest that this should be our common voice with regard to Rare Disease Facts:

  • 7,000+ rare diseases
  • over 80% of Rare Diseases are genetic
  • 1 in 10 have a rare disease … over 30 million Americans, 350m worldwide
  • over 50% of which are children
  • 30% of those children will not live to see their 5th birthday
  • <5% of rare diseases have approved therapies
  • and as of early 2017 only a few hundred rare diseases have therapies … 95% do not have a therapy!

A good source

Global Genes presents a nice summary of these Rare Disease facts, and more,  on their Rare Disease Facts page.

* images source: Global Genes 

Tissue Donations … The Ultimate Gift!

A MLD mom recently asked about donating her son’s brain and other tissue to research after he passed.  There is no more personal or profound donation that can be made to advance MLD research.  This post is a lightly edited copy of my response to this special MLD mom …

It’s always difficult to talk about tissue donations. It’s a very sensitive and personal topic. Our desire at MLD Foundation is that you be informed and consider tissue donation … it is critical that researchers have access to MLD tissues, including brains and other organs, to better their basic science understanding and to focus and expedite their work toward therapies.

UMB Brain & Tissue Bank at the University of Maryland

We currently recommend the UMB Brain & Tissue Bank at the University of Maryland.
We have visited them several times over the years, met with and queried their staff, and know first hand they treat every sample with the greatest respect. They have been a primary national tissue bank for the NIH (National Institutes of Health) for over 15 years and allow access by non-NIH researchers from academic institutions and pharma companies so donations them them are very accessible.

They do all of their work behind the scenes and while they prefer the donation paperwork to be signed and placed on file in advance with them and your local care team, they can often work quickly if things suddenly take a turn for the worse and they need to move more quickly.

 What does this cost?  Can I have a normal memorial and viewing?

There is no cost to your family. Taking tissue samples does not affect your ability to have any form of traditional memorial ceremony or viewings.

The paperwork is fairly simple. You can learn more, including registering online here: http://www.medschool.umaryland.edu/btbank/family/

Videos …

Here are two videos that may answer a few more questions and help convey the value of tissue donations:
–  Mystery Disorders of the Brain
–  About the Brain and Tissue Bank

More questions?

We are happy to help you along in this process. MLD tissue, especially brain tissue, is very valuable. Don’t worry that you do not live in the Maryland area – they can arrange for the tissue samples to be taken in nearly any city across the US.

If you have any other questions please let us know.

p.s. MLD Foundation is investigating using additional tissue banks, but the Univ. of MD is currently our primary choice for donations. Keeping as many samples as possible in one place as opposed to scattering them at multiple institutions makes the tissues a more accessible and valuable resource.

Capitol Hill, BIO, 21st Century Cures, Airbnb, and one more thing … Reflecting on my DC week

The first rule of blogging is to post good content on a regular basis.  The second is to keep your posts short, to the point and to not mix multiple topics into one post.  Oh boy, am I in trouble …
jetitup2016-11
My 6th trip to DC this year ended reflecting at 35,000′ with a Crater Lake Hazelnut Espresso Vodka courtesy of gold status on Alaska Airlines as I flew non-stop back home to Portland Friday evening.

I cratelakevodka admit I was stoked because of so many good people, connections, meetings, and events that I had experienced over the past three days.

And then I connected to Alaska’s WiFi …

Before I tell you what I learned from the world below,  let me share a few of the other highlights … each of which I will share much more about in coming posts.

13 Senate ofice meetings in one day

Jay Griessing of Biomarin set up and attended 14 Senate us-senate office meetings and one House meeting with me … 13 Senate meetings on Wednesday alone!  I have been to Senate offices many times over perhaps a decade – my prior max was 6 or 7 meetings. And better yet, because Congress is in recess (out campaigning) the two of us were very efficient as we meet with the staffers who do the real work on the Hill.

21st Century Cures is alive

curesnowpict We discussed 21st Century Cures, its history and what we hope to accomplish over the next few weeks during the lame duck Congressional session.  The short update … there is a lot of enthusiasm on both the Senate and House side to get #CURESnow passed.  It might be slimmed down a bit but we’ll take it.

Rare Policy

rarepolicy-home-pages-draft A missing voice was identified at 21st Century Cures strategic planning meeting held two weeks ago duringmy 5th trip to DC at the NORD Rare Disease Summit.
We need the voice of the patients, families, caregivers, and general public to push CURES to the finish line.  I am about 24 hours away from launching a platform that lets this audience contact Congress with 1-click in a much more impactful way … and gives those of us managing these programs a lot more ability to build on these grass-roots networks.  I spent three late nights last week communicating with a development team in India … and watching the Cubs historic win streamed to a small corner of my screen.


BIO Patient & Health Advocacy Summit

biosummit2016 I again attended this annual gathering of advocacy and industry. The #BIOsummit2016 sessions and particularly the networking was exceptionally rich this year.  BIO does great job of balancing the content and attendance so we all come away enriched and informed.  I spent time with dozens of people from multiple stakeholder communities … advocacy, industry, policy, organizational leadership, consultants, communications, etc.

Airbnb

airbnd-chic-14th-u airbnb-new-logo-1-1024x863 Ok , I’m adventuresome, frugal with MLD Foundation funds, and we’d reached our quota of room nights with Hilton family hotels to keep our status with them … so I made my first Airbnb reservation and stayed at a place described as Chic designer-rustic, 14th & U Neighborhood, Metro (if you sty there tell them Dean recommend you).  A 3rd floor room, a tiny European style bathroom with a sideways sink, WiFi and great hosts.  I’m no longer an Airbnb virgin.

And then

edengetsherwings201611 One email subject line whisked me from this whirlwind activity, progress, and networking and reminded me of the reality of why I’m doing this … Eden gets her wings”.  Beth is not a MLD carrier and Eden was healthy by all accounts when she was adopted from Ethiopia by her single mother, Beth.  7-year old Eden was finally free from MLD, but no longer with us.  Late infantile MLD starts to show its devastation around 18-24 months, just after Eden was brought to the US to live what was supposed to be a happy healthy life.


#FMLD fmldcar … which properly stands for Fighting MLD … but that’s not quite how I feel right now.  ;(

I love what I do … and yet I hate the reasons I ever had to start doing it.  MLD and Rare Disease are my passion and focus … but there are times where overall health and sometimes even bigger things are the concerns.

more to come …