A Local Company Is Getting $1.5 Million Raised By the Ice Bucket Challenge

Anelixis Therapeutics received the money for its work on an immune system-targeting ALS drug.

If you had any Internet access whatsoever last summer, chances are very, very good you are familiar with the Ice Bucket Challenge, an ALS fundraising effort made famous by Beverly native Pete Frates. The Facebook posts may have died down, but for local company Anelixis Therapeutics, the Challenge’s impact has only just begun.

The ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALSTDI), a Cambridge-based organization focused solely on ALS research, announced on Wednesday that of the $4 million raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge, $1.5 million will go toward furthering a treatment developed by Anelixis, a subsidiary of the ALSTDI. The rest of the $4 million will also go directly toward ALS research.

In a nut shell, Anelixis’ therapy focuses on regulating the immune system, since faulty immune activation is often the driving force behind diseases like ALS. The drug works by trying to block a protein that can falsely switch immune cells to an “on” state, effectively making the body believe danger is present and begin attacking itself.

Animal trials have already begun using mice, and when the protein was quieted in those experiments, the disease progressed more slowly and mice lived longer, suggesting that a similar effect could be achieved in humans. Similar therapies could also be effective in targeting diseases like multiple sclerosis, arthritis, lupus, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Next, the drug will be produced at scale by a biologics manufacturer so that it can advance to clinical trials for patients, bringing it one step closer to market. So there you have it—dumping ice on your head may indeed have made a lasting impact on the health community.