Samsara brings eminent neurologist on board to accelerate ALS/MND treatment development

Professor Dame Pamela Shaw joins Samsara Therapeutics’ scientific advisory board and will expedite its leading candidate’s journey into clinic.

Today, 21st June, is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and the start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. The point when the Sun is at its highest position in the sky is often seen as a turning point, and for this reason, 21st June is also Global Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also called Motor Neurone Disease or MND) Awareness Day, a day when the ALS/MND community marks the disease and expresses the hope a turning point towards a successful cure will soon occur.

In a neat move, Samsara Therapeutics, the autophagy biotech company, has chosen today to make its announcement that it has appointed the eminent neurologist and world-leading researcher in ALS, Professor Dame Pamela Shaw to its scientific advisory board. Professor Shaw’s extensive knowledge will help drive the next phase of development of Samsara’s ALS drug candidate SAM001, expediting its journey into the clinic and offering new hope for people with this life-limiting condition.

Longevity.Technology: Professor Shaw is Professor of Neurology at the University of Sheffield and Director of the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), one of the world’s leading centres for ALS research. Her research in ALS has helped uncover the biological pathways that define the condition, develop novel neuroprotective therapies and shape clinical practice to improve patient experience and outcomes. She will join a panel that already boasts leaders in the areas of neurodegeneration, rare genetic disease, and autophagy biology, advising and driving Samsara forward. The board is headed by Guido Kroemer MD, PhD the company’s scientific co-founder and a frequently-cited life scientist [1].

Professor Dame Pamela Shaw
Professor Dame Pamela Shaw

Commenting on her appointment, Professor Shaw said: “Samsara has some really promising drug candidates for neurodegenerative disorders and we want to make these available to patients as quickly as possible so they can experience their transformative benefits.

“However, navigating the complexities of clinical trials can be tough. I hope to use my lifetime of experience to make sure we design trials correctly, ask the right questions and collect the right data that unequivocally demonstrates the advantages SAM001 can offer individuals with diseases such as ALS/MND.”

ALS is rare before the age of 40 years and increases exponentially with age thereafter [2]. Professor Shaw explained that Global ALS/MND Awareness Day on 21 June provides an important platform to raise awareness of this devastating condition that kills a third of people within a year and more than half within two years of diagnosis [3].

Hoping for the promotion of empathy, understanding and support from society, she added: “It is also a time for us to recognise and celebrate promising advancements in the development of new medicines for MND. These new avenues hold the promise of improving the quality of life for MND patients, potentially slowing the disease progression, and bringing us closer to a future where MND is no longer a life sentence.”

Samsara was created in 2018, with an initial investment of $25 million, by Apollo Health Ventures, a venture creation initiative focused on reversing age-related diseases and extending healthy human lifespan. The company is focused on autophagy, the vital cellular self-cleaning process that the body undertakes to remove and recycle waste material, such as the toxic protein deposits implicated in the development of ALS. Samsara has strong pipeline of drug candidates for multiple neurological disorders and other hard-to-treat genetic conditions where there are currently few or no treatment options, and this includes its lead candidate, SAM001.

SAM001 is a once daily, oral treatment that boosts autophagy; according to Samsara, SAM001 has been shown to reduce damage to brain cells taken from people with ALS and even reverse the symptoms of disease in mice [4]. 

“SAM001, is our most advanced asset now finalising IND-enabling studies for ALS/MND and Parkinson’s. Being able to tap into Professor Shaw’s personal experience in developing therapeutic candidates and working across both academic and clinical environments will be invaluable in effectively and efficiently moving SAM001 through this next phase,” said Peter Hamley, Samsara Therapeutics’ chief scientific officer.

“Her support will bring us closer to delivering a much-needed disease-modifying treatment with the potential to reduce treatment complexity and improve quality of life for people with ALS/MND,” he continued.


Photograph: iLexx_Envato