Minnesota Senate Creates New Rare Disease Advisory Council

On May 8, 2019 the Minnesota Senate unanimously passed legislation that would create a new rare disease advisory council at the University of Minnesota to facilitate the study and treatment of rare diseases. Erica Barnes, co-founder and Board Chairperson of Chloe’s Fight Rare Disease Foundation, worked tirelessly for the creation and passage of this bill. Chloe’s Fight Rare Disease Foundation is affiliated with the Lysosomal Disease Network.

The bipartisan bill, authored by Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona), created the ‘Chloe Barnes Rare Disease Advisory Council’ at the University of Minnesota. The late Chloe Barnes was born with metachromatic leukodystrophy, and was the daughter of Erica Barnes. Chloe died of metachromatic leukodystrophy at the age of two in 2010.

The work of the Chloe Barnes Rare Disease Advisory Council is to identify best practices to diagnose and treat rare diseases; to educate the public; and to advise state agencies on related policy issues. To facilitate close collaboration with experts at the University of Minnesota Medical School and the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, the Council will be established within the University of Minnesota. The Council will partner with legislators and other government leaders to provide expert opinion on the provider‐patient relationship, increase access to vital life‐saving medications and therapies, and bring cutting-edge research and technologies to Minnesota. Physicians, nurses, hospital administrators, rare disease advocacy organizations, caretakers, and patients themselves will have a seat at the table.

Senator Miller said, “Creating this new Rare Disease Advisory Council will help families receive faster diagnoses, advance groundbreaking research, and ultimately help find cures. I am especially proud of the amazing grassroots effort behind this bill. This was driven by everyday people who took a difficult situation and channeled their frustration, their grief, and their anxiety into something incredibly positive. This includes the family of Chloe Barnes and the Quimby family from Winona who lost their 5-year-old son Gavin to a rare disease. I’m proud to play a small part in their story.”

The interesting details about the membership of the Chloe Barnes Rare Disease Advisory Council and the members’ appointment-term are here (click on the “Bill Text” tab). Initial appointments to the Chloe Barnes Rare Disease Advisory Council shall be made no later than September 1, 2019.

The 2019 Sue Rosenau Legacy Award Winner!

The Legacy of Angels Foundation, which vigorously supports research into treatments and a cure for Krabbe disease and Cystic Fibrosis, and works to promote the expansion of newborn screening, announces the recipient of the 2019 Sue Rosenau Legacy Award. The award was created to honor the late Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of The Legacy of Angels Foundation, Sue Rosenau. This remarkable woman died on July 31st, 2018. To keep Sue’s legacy alive within the Foundation and community at large, The Legacy of Angels Foundation honors an individual for his\her achievements in Sue’s name each year. This legacy award recognizes an inspirational leader who has delivered extraordinary contributions, worked to propel progress towards a better treatment, and continuously gives altruistic support to the patient community; a replica of Sue Rosenau.

This year’s recipient is Dr. David A. Wenger, PhD, Director of the Lysosomal Disease Testing Laboratory at Sidney Kimmel Medical College (formerly Jefferson Medical College), part of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This laboratory was established in 1973 by Dr. Wenger, and currently receives the largest number of samples for lysosomal diseases in the world. Testing has resulted in the diagnosis of over 4,600 individuals with a lysosomal disease.

Dr. Wenger is known for being the first to purify the missing enzyme in Krabbe disease, GALC, and the first to clone the GALC cDNA gene. He’s also identified over 100 mutations causing Krabbe disease in humans, successfully placed human and mouse GALC cDNA into several viral vectors including retroviral, adeno-associated viruses, lentiviruses and SV40. Dr. Wenger has transduced oligodendrocytes from the twitcher mouse with viral vectors containing human GALC cDNA, and corrected them to a normal phenotype. He has published many prominent peer-reviewed journal articles. Thanks to Dr. Wenger’s five decades of commitment and hard work, the Krabbe disease community remains hopeful that a clinical trial for Krabbe disease will be available by 2020.

NORD Issues New Rare Disease Day® Rallying Cry: Show Your Stripes™!

The zebra is the official symbol of rare diseases in the United States, and is noted for its black and white stripes, which are central to its uniqueness. Everyone has his/her own stripes, those characteristics that make each individual distinct. While each of the more than 7,000 rare diseases are unique, there are many commonalities that unite the rare disease community.

The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)®, the leading independent nonprofit organization representing the 25-30 million Americans living with rare diseases, has announced a new campaign for Rare Disease Day® centering on three simple words: Show Your Stripes™, with a call to action for people to literally and figuratively “show their stripes” in support of rare diseases leading up to and on Rare Disease Day®, which will be observed on February 28th in 2019. In the spirit of raising awareness regarding rare disease issues and celebrating Rare Disease Day, this year NORD will promote specific ways that individuals, organizations and groups can show their stripes. NORD will:

• Ask everyone to wear stripes on Rare Disease Day® to show solidarity in rare disease awareness and education, and to share that message.

• Launch a Show Your Stripes™ challenge, in which the general public will be dared to show their stripes for rare diseases as imaginatively as possible. NORD will recruit influencers – individuals, companies and organizations – to initiate the challenge by thinking of creative ways that they will show their stripes (examples we hope to see: individuals dressing up as zebras, striping a car, 400+ employees at a company all wearing stripes, striping a train car, or advertising on trains).

• Collect and share photos, stories and videos of individuals and their colleagues, friends and families all wearing their stripes together on social media using the hashtags #showyourstripes and #rarediseaseday.

• Provide a Show Your Stripes™ social media profile frame, as well as stickers, signage and other materials that can be downloaded and printed.

• Encourage the hosting of events (virtual or live) in local communities to bolster interest and knowledge for the rare disease cause.

Glycogen Storage Disease Research Study is Enrolling

Alexa Bream, a genetic counseling student at University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), is conducting a survey to examine the relationship between metabolic control, body image, and quality of life in individuals with glycogen storage disease (GSD) type 1a. The survey is available for parents of children with GSD 1a, as well as adults who have a diagnosis of GSD 1a. No personally-identifiable information will be collected and all responses will be confidential. For more information please contact Alexa Bream.

MPS Society in the UK has Appointed Bob Stevens as its New CEO

The Board of Trustees of the Society for Mucopolysaccharide Diseases in the United Kingdom (the “MPS Society”) has appointed Bob Stevens as its new CEO. Mr. Stevens was already working with Christine Lavery prior to her unexpected death, on the task of becoming prepared to lead the MPS Society after her retirement. Additionally, he has been a Trustee of The MPS Society for over 10 years. Mr. Stevens has two sons who have MPS II.

In making this appointment, Paul Moody, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the MPS Society, wrote: “The Board of Trustees have now acted decisively and quickly in implementing not only what we believe were Christine’s wishes, but also the unanimous wishes of the board of trustees.” Mr. Stevens is also the CEO of the Society’s “MPS Commercial,” its unit that works to help the pharmaceutical industry successfully perform clinical trials for the MPS diseases. MPS Commercial is a wholly-owned, not-for-profit subsidiary of the Society, whose social objectives are to invest any profits into the MPS community for the purposes of education, enhancing needs-led advocacy support, quality-of-life research and scientific research.

Christine Lavery, Chief Executive of the MPS Society in the UK, has Died

Mrs. Christine Lavery MBE, a founder and the Chief Executive of the Society for Mucopolysaccharide Diseases (MPS Society) in the UK, died on Tuesday, December 19, 2017, following a brief illness. The MPS Society stated, “Christine has tirelessly championed the MPS Society from its very conception in the early 1980s up until her untimely death. She was a formidable lady who cared passionately for every MPS Society member, past and present. Her efforts saw her work with patients, families and professionals all over the world as she dedicated her life to improving the knowledge, advocacy support and clinical outlook for patients with MPS. We are all deeply saddened at the tragic loss of her life.” The MPS Society has announced the Christine Lavery Memorial Day at Childhood Wood, Sherwood Pines, Nottinghamshire, UK, on Saturday, June 30, 2018. To receive more details about this as they emerge, register for updates.

Mrs. Lavery was awarded an MBE for her services to metabolic diseases by HM Queen Elizabeth II in the New Year’s Honors List for 2002. At the 2006 International Symposium on Mucopolysaccharide and Related Diseases she received a ‘lifetime award’ from the International MPS Community. WORLDSymposium™ awarded Christine Lavery the 2017 Patient Advocate Leader (PAL) Award.

Mrs. Lavery was the mother of Simon Lavery, a child who had MPS II. There are some brief biographical highlights of Christine Lavery’s life at the Brains for Brain Foundation site, under the paragraph-heading “Christine Lavery Short Biography.” Prior to serving the lysosomal disease community, Mrs. Lavery volunteered for Save the Children and the International Year of the Child. That short biography reveals a lifetime of focused dedication to improving the lives of those with special needs. She is deeply missed throughout the world.

Ultragenyx Announces FDA Approval of MEPSEVII™ (Vestronidase Alfa), The First Therapy for Mucopolysaccharidosis VII

On Nov. 15, 2017, Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical Inc. announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved MEPSEVII™ (vestronidase alfa), the first medicine approved for the treatment of children and adults with mucopolysaccharidosis VII (MPS VII, Sly syndrome). MEPSEVII™ is an enzyme replacement therapy designed to replace the deficient lysosomal enzyme beta-glucuronidase in MPS VII patients. The effect of MEPSEVII™ on the central nervous system manifestations of MPS VII has not been determined.

MEPSEVII™ was evaluated by the FDA with Priority Review, which is reserved for drugs that offer major advances in treatment or provide a treatment where no adequate therapy exists. Designation of a drug as “Priority” does not alter the scientific/medical standard for approval or the quality of evidence necessary. In Europe, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently reviewing the Marketing Authorization Application (MAA) for vestronidase alfa, and an opinion from the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) is expected in the first half of 2018.

“I am thrilled beyond belief to see this treatment advance after more than 40 years of work and anticipation. Thanks to Ultragenyx for making it happen,” said William S. Sly, Chairman Emeritus, Department of Biochemistry at St. Louis University, who first identified and characterized MPS VII. “I hope that this treatment will follow the other successful examples of enzyme therapy for LSDs and help improve the lives of patients with this rare disease.” Former 2016-2017 Lysosomal Disease Network fellow Michael Flanagan, PhD, had the privilege of being partly mentored by Dr. Sly during his LDN fellowship at St. Louis University.

Experiment in Genome Editing Inside a Living Person Occurred on Monday, November 13, 2017

44-year-old Brian Madeux, who has MPS II (Hunter syndrome), was the first patient to undergo an experiment in genome editing inside a living person on Nov. 13, 2017 in Oakland, California using Sangamo Therapeutics, Inc.‘s zinc finger nuclease (ZFN) genome editing technology. The procedure was performed at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. If successful, this genome editing will not repair Brian Madeux’s existing damage from MPS II, but he hopes it will end his need for weekly enzyme replacement therapy infusions.

This is a Phase 1/2 clinical trial (“the CHAMPIONS study”) evaluating SB-913, an investigational in vivo genome editing therapy. The CHAMPIONS study is an open-label clinical study designed to assess the safety, tolerability and preliminary efficacy of the SB-913 investigational genome editing therapy in up to nine adult males with MPS II. Other CHAMPIONS study sites include Minneapolis, Chapel Hill, Chicago and Philadelphia. Currently at these study sites, prospective study participants are being screened. In Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota, the Lysosomal Disease Network’s principal investigator Dr. Chester B. Whitley is conducting the CHAMPIONS study.

Two additional clinical trials are now underway in the United States to evaluate Sangamo’s in vivo genome editing therapeutics for hemophilia B and MPS I (Hurler or Hurler-Scheie syndrome). The Lysosomal Disease Network’s principal investigator Dr. Chester B. Whitley is also conducting the MPS I genome editing study at the University of Minnesota. Other sites in this MPS I study include Oakland, New York City and Cincinnati. All three trials use ZFNs designed to edit liver cells at the same location in the albumin gene, but they differ in delivering the corrective gene relevant to the respective disease. All three of Sangamo’s in vivo genome editing product candidates have received Fast Track and Orphan Drug designations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Additionally, SB-318 for MPS I and SB-913 for MPS II have received Rare Pediatric Disease designations from the FDA.

LDN Fellow Named as Outstanding Mentor

Reena Kartha, PhD, a former LDN Fellow, is a Research Assistant Professor with the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy’s Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology, and a Principal Scientist for the College of Pharmacy’s Center for Orphan Drug Research. Her research focuses on the role of oxidative stress and inflammation in neurodegenerative conditions. Dr. Kartha also generously helps interview applicants for the University of Minnesota Center for Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s summer programs. Dr. Kartha has been named the 2017 CTSI Outstanding Junior Mentor.

Dr. Kartha receives her award for Outstanding 2017 Junior Mentor

Reena Kartha, PhD receives the Univ. of Minnesota’s CTSI 2017 Outstanding Junior Mentor award. Reena Kartha, PhD (right), and Anne Marie Weber-Main, co-director of CTSI’s mentoring program (left).

Comments from nominating mentees included: “Dr. Kartha is one of the most intelligent women I have ever had the honor of meeting and I am inspired by her internal strength, wisdom, confidence, and grace. She is someone I hope and aspire to become, and not just from a researcher perspective, but as a person.”


“What distinguishes Dr. Kartha from most other mentors is the relationships she develops with her mentees. The net result is a string of trainees who have grown substantially as researchers and, more importantly, and have developed a sense of curiosity and excitement about clinical science.”

The Lysosomal Disease Network congratulates Dr. Kartha, and is proud to have chosen her as one of its 2016-2017 Fellows. Dr. Kartha also is a graduate of the RDCRN’s Rare Disease Clinical Research Training Program. She will be presenting her research at the NORD Rare Diseases and Orphan Products Breakthrough Summit, October 16-17, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

NCATS Launches Online Toolkit for Patient-Focused Therapy Development

The NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) has launched its new Toolkit for Patient-Focused Therapy Development which provides a vast collection of online resources that can help patient advocacy groups advance through the process of therapy development. The Toolkit includes resources that have been developed primarily for the rare diseases community to facilitate therapeutics R & D. Since early 2016, NCATS has worked with a diverse group of rare diseases community partners to conduct an extensive analysis of available tools. Their hard labor defined, characterized and organized resources in a centralized portal that can be helpful to all patient groups, regardless of how far along in the research and development process they may be.

The new toolkit includes, but is not limited to:

Getting Started that focuses on learning how investigational therapies are developed; why it is important for patients and their advocates to engage throughout the process; and how to build effective relationships with other stakeholders.

Discovery Tools that aid in community organization and the prioritization of activities during the early stages of development.

Preparing for Clinical Trials Tools focused on getting patient communities ready for clinical trials.

Clinical Trials and FDA Review Tools to help connect patients to clinical trials, and to take part in the complex FDA regulatory-review process.

After FDA Approval Tools to help formulate the plan for integrating a newly-approved therapy into clinical care.

Take the time to explore the deep layers of nested links and the information they’ll take you to. NCATS has certainly produced an extremely useful, high-quality tool! What this new tool needs now — is for thousands of members of the rare diseases community to USE IT!