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Innovate UK has awarded an Oxford-based consortium £850k to validate epigenetic signatures in patients with the motor neurone disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

ALS is a fatal neurodegenerative disease charactierised by progressive death of the primary motor neurones in the central nervous system. The mortality rate for ALS sufferers is high: the median survival from diagnosis with ALS (i.e. the time when 50% of patients have died) varies in different studies, but in the most reliable (unbiased) population studies it is about 22 months with a range of (18-30).

 There is only one drug currently approved for treatment, which provides a modest increase in lifespan for ALS patients but minimal improvement in symptoms.

The consortium which has been awarded the funding includes the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Chronos Therapeutics Limited, and the project lead, Oxford BioDynamics Limited. These parties have complementary interests in the use of biomarker tests for improving the clinical management of patients and the development of novel therapies in ALS.

My colleagues and I at the Oxford Motor Neuron Disease Centre are very excited to be working with local Oxford biotechnology companies in the early stages of clinical development of a potential new therapy for ALS. Partnerships like this are an important part of the effort to overcome the very significant barriers to finding effective treatments for this devastating disease.
- Professor Kevin Talbot 

Oxford BioDynamics Limited has a proprietary biomarker discovery platform called EpiSwitch™. The EpiSwitch™ platform identifies and monitors the fundamental epigenetic level of gene regulation associated with the regulatory higher order structures of human chromosomes. The project will use this technology to validate epigenetic signatures in patients with ALS.

These signatures will provide important insight into disease diagnosis, timescales for disease progression and early indication of whether a new drug is having a positive effect. The test will be able to detect markers directly from patient’s blood providing a quick and non-invasive tool for diagnosis and prognosis.

This programme will place the UK at the forefront of developing new tools to use in the fight against this fatal disease. 


About Innovate UK

Innovate UK is the new name for the Technology Strategy Board – the UK’s innovation agency. Taking a new idea to market is a challenge. Innovate UK funds, supports and connects innovative businesses through a unique mix of people and programmes to accelerate sustainable economic growth. For further information visit