US department of defense grant to support ALS research at University of Helsinki

With the help of the two-year Therapeutic Idea Award from the US Department of Defense professor Saarma and Dr. Voutilainen aim to generate more preclinical data i.e. data from tests preceding the patient trials, to support therapeutic use of CDNF in ALS.

"A single injection of CDNF into the brain increases survival of animals by 25 percent, improves motor coordination and protects motoneurons in spinal cord in a mouse model of ALS," explains Dr. Voutilainen from the Institute of Biotechnology.

CDNF, a neuroprotective protein originally discovered by Professor Mart Saarma and his team at the University of Helsinki, has recently entered clinical trials on Parkinson’s disease patients. Herantis Pharma Plc has patented CDNF worldwide. The new grant will support preclinical development of CDNF for ALS.

In their unpublished data, Dr. Voutilainen, Professor Dan Lindholm and Professor Saarma discovered that CDNF and its novel variant are promising therapeutic candidates for ALS.

“Our aim is to take CDNF towards clinical trials in collaboration with Herantis Pharma Plc in the coming 3 - 5 years”, says Dr. Voutilainen.

The CDNF-ALS project will be executed by an international consortium that also includes professor Michael Sendtner from the University of Würzburg, Germany and Dr. Brandon Harvey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, USA.
Jane and Aatos Erkko foundation and Academy of Finland have also recently awarded grants for this project.


Contact info:

Professor Mart Saarma, tel. +358 500 2726, email:

Dr. Merja H. Voutilainen, tel. +358 50 4002191, email:; Twitter: @MerjaVoutilain5

Research group web site:

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis ALS

ALS is a fatal neurodegenerative disease. Most patients with ALS die from respiratory failure, usually within 3 to 5 years from the onset of symptoms. About 450,000 new ALS cases are diagnosed every year. In Finland, about 150 new ALS cases are diagnosed every year.

CDNF has been awarded an orphan drug status for ALS treatment by European Medicines Agency (EMA) and by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in USA, in order to accelerate the development of CDNF for ALS.