Medical Excellence Foundation Announces First MERIT Grant

$50,000 Grant to Project ALS to Fund Critical ALS research at the Columbia ALS Core

As we planned the creation of Medical Excellence Capital (MEC) two years ago, the team in unison expressed a strong desire to explore avenues that resulted in supporting the most promising science pioneers in early-stage drug discovery. One way we accomplished this is to orient the investment thesis to company creation and seed-stage investing. The MEC team has a demonstrated track record over the last 20 years partnering with scientists at universities and research institutions to create meaningful drug discovery ventures.

The commercialization of medical discoveries via venture capital is well-documented, and I believe a public good. Unfortunately, gaps exist in medical research that at times prevent very promising medical research from moving forward. MEC wants to be part of the solution and we found an innovative path to do so by founding the Medical Excellence Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization founded last year. See the prior MERIT announcement here. The Foundation will fund scientific discovery programs that match the MEC investment thesis and address large unmet needs across many diseases. This will ensure we have the expertise to carefully select programs for philanthropic funding.

The next step was to award our first grant to a great group dedicated to moving science forward in a very difficult space. This one was easy.

There is not enough space in this note to even highlight the accomplishments of Project ALS in their drive to find a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).  We use the word “drive” precisely because anyone meeting the Estess sisters, Meredith and Valerie, will witness a true force of nature. They are driven to end ALS, period. Medical Excellence Foundation shares that passion. We have awarded Project ALS $50,000 to be applied directly to fund a new avenue of ALS research at the Project ALS Therapeutics Core at Columbia University.

The Project ALS Therapeutics Core has established an impressive early track record with its rational and aggressive strategy for screening small molecule compounds in ALS. This strategy independently identified the neuroprotective properties of MAP4K and led to the licensing of prosetin, by ProJenX, a novel, small molecule ALS treatment candidate. Prosetin is currently in Phase 1 clinical trial for ALS.

ALS is a debilitating and progressive disease that affects the motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. It is a devastating condition that often leads to paralysis and ultimately, death. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for ALS, and treatment options are limited. Despite the challenges, there is hope.

Led by Columbia University professors Hynek Wichterle and Brent Stockwell, their laboratories have collaborated to optimize novel analogs of a new class of kenpaullone compounds. Subsequently, four generations of these compounds have now been generated.  The purpose of this grant is to further translational research and validate these novel compounds in vivo.

We hope the resulting experiments will produce meaningful new discoveries in ALS research and will keep you closely apprised of progress.