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Making A Difference

Gaining Ground on ALS

Robert Blum (MBA 1991)

If you are one of the 17 million people who participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the money you raised may be helping to fund a first-of-its kind clinical collaboration between a nonprofit patient/disease advocacy organization and a biopharmaceutical company.

Robert Blum (MBA 1991) is president and CEO of Cytokinetics, Inc., a California-based company that focuses on biology-driven treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other debilitating diseases associated with muscle weakness. In 2015, the ALS Association awarded Cytokinetics a grant from funds raised during the Ice Bucket Challenge to support the Phase 3 trial of a promising investigational drug that is designed to slow the loss of lung function and muscle strength in patients with ALS.

“Clinical trials cost tens to hundreds of millions of dollars,” notes Blum, who started the California-based company in 1998. “But this grant is significant because it facilitates the sharing of plasma samples, collected from test subjects over time, with academic researchers.” The collaboration is a first for an international, late-stage trial and could help identify biomarkers for the disease’s causes and progression.

“The patients and caregivers we work with inspire us every day,” says Blum. “Bringing forward the first new medicine for ALS in nearly 25 years is a personal and professional crusade for everyone in our company.”

(Published September 2016)