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!

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!

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.

Icratelakevodka 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-senateoffice 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

curesnowpictWe 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-draftA 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

biosummit2016I 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-uairbnb-new-logo-1-1024x863Ok , 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

edengetsherwings201611One 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.


#FMLDfmldcar … 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 …

MLD Newborn Screening Pilot Study – Announcement

Today is Rare Disease Day. It’s an appropriate day to announce we have come one step closer to a MLD Newborn Screen!

The pilot study to test the newly developed MLD Newborn assay/technique on current newborn babies born in Washington state will be starting within the next three months once testing lab equipment is in place.

tandem mass

The MLD Foundation will continue to push forward until all newborns are tested for MLD. Thank you Dr. Michael Gelb  for your tireless work to make MLD newborn screening a reality.

#‎mldfamily‬ ‪#‎mldfoundation‬ ‪#‎FMLD‬ #fmld ‪#‎runovermld‬ ‪#‎rarediseaseday2016‬

New Year’s Reflections … and Highlights from December Meeting in Boston

Image

Happy New Year!  As we head out of the holiday season and into a new year, it is a time that we reflect on life, cherish family, and count our blessings for all that we hold close to our hearts. Holiday music has been playing everywhere you go for the past month; while I enjoy all of the holiday songs, one song in particular, “Grown-Up Christmas List”, profoundly speaks to me at this point in my life. The lyrics are:

“No more lives torn apart,

And wars would never start,

And time would heal all hearts.

And every one would have a friend,

And right would always win,

And love would never end

This is my grown-up Christmas list.

This is my only lifelong wish”

YES. With the commercialism of Christmas in today’s society, much of this gets lost in the shuffle. But for me, and for what my family has endured as a result of the devastating effects of MLD, my grown-up Christmas list goes far beyond gifts wrapped beautifully under a tree. For me, since MLD has been in our lives, the loss we and others have experienced glaringly exposes the lies of commercialized Christmas. Shiny presents under the tree do not address our hopes and dreams. What we want is life for our children, hope for future families receiving a diagnosis of MLD. My lifelong wish is to see a cure for MLD, so that no other child has to endure what my beautiful girl, Emily, has had to endure. So that the pain caused by MLD would be avoided, and so that families receiving an MLD diagnosis would not be faced with little to no options.Emily Pierce - 2014

A few weeks ago, in mid-December, I had the privilege of attending a meeting organized by Dean & Teryn Suhr (MLD Foundation) with Dr. Alessandra Biffi and Dr. Florian Eichler at Mass General Hospital in Boston, MA. I came away from the meeting feeling like I had received a grown-up Christmas gift…two leading doctors/researchers investing and caring for OUR children and OUR rare disease. It was encouraging and refreshing. The goal of the meeting was to lay groundwork for future interaction; to discuss initiatives and action plans to make progress. [Dr. Biffi is on the MLD Foundation’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Board]

There is much to be done. Dean and Teryn are behind the scenes, pushing for good communication between those involved. Their involvement is a personal agenda that bears the weight of all of our hearts, collectively. They ultimately are fighting the MLD battle on the front lines for all of us. Dr. Eichler has been involved over the last 18 months creating a clinical & research community for ALD (adrenoleukodystrophy) called ALDConnect. The registry and community they created is a good prototype for what we can create for MLD patients to help advance research. Dr. Biffi and Dr. Eichler discussed what type of information would be helpful to obtain from MLD families. A similar patient-powered registry for MLD is in the final stages of debug by MLD Foundation (as a result of a federal grant like ALDConnect) and will be rolled out shortly. We, as the MLD Family, will become ultimately responsible in ensuring the success of information collected. A collection of information is vital for researchers to use in searching for a cure for MLD. We, as families, hold the KEY TO INFORMATION that is beyond valuable. It is my hope that we can harness our information and use it to its greatest potential.

In addition, we discussed the idea of Centers of Excellence, and what that could look like for MLD families. There is a tremendous need for knowledgeable and highly qualified centers for MLD patients and their families. Too often, our local doctors do not have the expertise or knowledge to adequately support MLD patients. With the help of a Center of Excellence, families would receive specialized care at a center, with support given to local medical teams.

Teryn’s work with developing a Newborn Screening Test for MLD was discussed. At this point a pilot study is being planned. The hope is that a 2016 pilot study will prove the test is reliable and credible. This would be HUGE!

It is very exciting to have Dr. Biffi now in the U.S. working on behalf of MLD.  It is my hope that new interest will be sparked throughout the U.S. because of her presence here. As families who have been involved with Dr. Biffi’s gene therapy work in Italy have already experienced, I was greatly impressed by Dr. Biffi’s genuine concern for MLD and desire to make a difference. We, as MLD parents, obviously want to see research done on MLD because our children have been deeply affected by it. It is refreshing to see doctors with a heart for MLD born out of their own desire to make a difference.

At one point during our meeting we discussed the burden of responsiblity that many MLD families feel in paying it forward…helping others that will come after us even if our own children may not benefit. Dr. Biffi recognized that this has affected her very deeply in her own research and experience with MLD. She personally has experienced the selfless attitude of many families to do whatever it takes for the greater good, to make the world a better place in the future for MLD, even if we may not benefit immediately from it. I was touched by her emotion and recognition of the heart of MLD families as a whole.

Ultimately, I am encouraged. Things are happening for MLD, research is being done. Not as fast as I would like, but at least it is progress. Maybe, just maybe, our hope of a cure is coming….

Centers of Excellence for Leukodystrophies and Lysosomal Disease

Earlier last month we had the opportunity to see several presentations about the Leukodystrophy Center of Excellence (CoE) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), which opened today, May 1st.
The mission of the [CHOP Leukodystrophy CoE] center is “to deliver cutting-edge, integrated, multidisciplinary clinical care, diagnostic evaluation, and therapeutics to infants, children and youth with inherited white matter disease.”
We are excited about the multi-disciplinary approach of collaborative and comprehensive care this center is now providing for leukodystrophy patients and families. Under the directorship of Dr. Amy Waldman, care plans are being developed by teams of specialists, with a designated CHOP care coordinator and extensive family/caregiver involvement. The CHOP team will include a standard suite of specialists and will include additional experts from other CHOP specialties who will come and go as situations arise. Appointments and treatments will be consolidated into one day’s visit, where possible, so families don’t have to make multiple trips to the CoE thereby improving the scope of care and reducing the burden on families and patients. We are planning to have representatives from CHOP come and present at our MLD Family Conference™ in Delaware this July.  We also hope to hear 1st hand reports from Philly area families about the CHOP CoE.
Dr. Escolar’s Program for the Study of Neurodevelopment in Rare Disorders (NDRD) at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, the White Matter Disease Program under Dr. Vanderver at Children’s National in DC, Dr. Eichler’s ALD Connect program at Boston Children’s, and the Kennedy Krieger Institute Moser Center for Leukodystrophies each offer similar but independent programs, each with their own focus and roots.
MLD Foundation is an avid supporter of helping these existing centers work more closely together to improve patient care for all the leukodystrophies and to improve how network and clinical data is gathered, shared, and studied to improve care, advance understanding, and expedite therapies. This will require helping the centers to work more closely, establishing common methodologies, expanding their capabilities to serve all leukodystrophies, and putting more uniformity and structure into the clinical care and research strategies.  As resources become available the program can be expanded to include CoE’s in other parts of the country so every leukodystrophy family has a CoE close to them.
We are actively working with GLIA (Global Leukodystrophy Initiative – a two-year old international collaboration of leukodystrophy clinical and research experts), industry pharma partners, advocacy groups, and other MLD experts to develop standards of care, registries for common data collection, resource directories, access to experts, training and awareness, and maybe even provide some seed funding to help new centers to launch.  Imagine if these experts were able to implement CoE’s for leukodystrophies at all of their home medical centers – what a powerful and accessible clinical care and research force that network would be.
MLD Foundation’s OpenNHS Manifesto offers a peek into how we think pre-clinical Natural History Study collaborations should operate.  We’re thinking the CoE picture should have similar overriding and undergirding principles. Maybe an OpenCoE Manifesto is in order?

Congratulations to CHOP!

Read CHOP’s press release here

openNHS Manifesto – Meeting Report

A meeting of researchers, clinicians, industry and academia was convened by the MLD Foundation on June 24th in Washington, DC to discuss the openNHS Manifesto we wrote about in this blog post.

Since a NHS is not a therapy, NHS participants have historically be giving time, energy, and effort, not to mention exposing their MLD loved ones to occasional invasive and potentially painful testing with limited feedback from the NHS study teams.

The openNHS Manifesto

  • recognizes the importance of NHS to better understand the disease and as a baseline to determine efficacy and obtain regulatory approval of new therapies.
  • calls for the NHS study team to be well-informed about MLD and to give back to the participants ideas and insight into improving the participants quality of life and ongoing clinical care.
  • calls for study sponsors to collaborate pre-clinically up front with other researchers and industry to design a study that meets the sponsor’s needs as well as  reasonably anticipated future needs
  • calls for study data to be open and accessible as raw data (in its entirety) to future researchers.  The Manifesto recognizes that some limited time protection may be necessary to honor publishing and IP rights.

At the DC meeting there was extensive discussion and sharing of perspectives and concerns about openNHS from many points of view.

We are pleased to report the meeting was a success on all fronts!  MLD Foundation, on behalf of those affected with MLD and the ongoing research community, was able to facilitate full support of the Manifesto and will be working with MLD collaborators in general, as well as Shire as sponsor of the current US late infantile NHS, to implement the Manifesto on current and future MLD Natural History Studies.

We look forward to sharing more specifics about what this means to MLD families and NHS study participants in the near future.

We will also be sharing our success with other advocacy groups with the hope that they too can call for openNHS in their communities.

ERT Phase I/II Clinical Trial Recruiting Completed

The Enzyme Replacement Therapy HGT-1110 Phase I/II clinical trial has been fully recruited.  Patients are participating from three continents; Europe, South America, and Australia.

The primary purpose of a Phase I/II clinical trial is to study safety and to establish a target dosage for further study.

The trial lasts 40-weeks so the last patient should complete their primary end point in March 2015 or thereabouts. Allowing 3-4 months for data analysis and review, there might be some results reported Summer 2015.

Shire is the trial sponsor.