Biogen Idec Forms First-of-Its-Kind Research Consortium to Identify ALS Drug Targets

  Biogen Idec Forms First-of-Its-Kind Research Consortium to Identify ALS Drug

    -- Multidisciplinary effort brings together leading research labs with
     complementary expertise to improve disease understanding and target
                              identification --

         -- Projects underway Columbia, Harvard, Rockefeller, Yale --

Business Wire

WESTON, Mass. -- December 20, 2012

Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) announced today that it has created a new research
consortium in collaboration with several leading academic research centers
that will leverage a range of scientific techniques and disciplines to
identify new approaches to treating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It is
anticipated that coordinating research and sharing results across a number of
different disciplines will greatly accelerate the understanding of the
mechanism of this disease and the development of new targets and approaches to

Through the Consortium, each participating lab will undertake a three-year
research project. Researchers will meet on a regular basis to provide updates
and share information and insights emerging from their research and to
exchange results from ongoing efforts at Biogen Idec, which will help to guide
ongoing research activities. This level of collaboration will enable
researchers to apply others’ learnings to their own efforts in near real time.

“ALS research is a primary area of focus for Biogen Idec, but has proven to be
a very difficult disease to understand and treat,” said Spyros
Artavanis-Tsakonas, Ph.D., senior vice president, chief scientific officer,
for Biogen Idec and Professor of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School. “We
believe that taking a holistic approach that explores the many variables
involved in the development and progression of ALS will speed our ability to
identify viable drug targets that can be moved into testing. We are hopeful
that the assembly of this extraordinary group will allow unprecedented
insights and define a new level of synergy between academic research and
Biogen Idec.”

Biogen Idec has committed more than $10 million over three years to fund
research projects by members of the Consortium. This initiative will
complement and extend a collaboration the company announced earlier this year
with Duke University and the Hudson Alpha Institute to sequence the genomes of
1,000 people living with ALS.

The members of the Consortium were identified based on their core scientific
and technical skills. Expertise in ALS was not a primary requirement for
participation, although the group includes some of the most renowned
neuroscientists and ALS researchers in the world.

Members of the Consortium are:

Pietro De Camilli, M.D., Eugene Higgins Professor of Cell Biology and
Professor of Neurobiology; Director, Yale Program in Cellular Neuroscience and
Neurodegeneration and Repair; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute,
Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Camilli’s research as part of this
Consortium will investigate the general role of the VAP protein family in
lipid regulation and endoplasmic reticulum stress response and to identify the
molecular pathways that are affected by disease-causing mutations of the VAP-B

J. Wade Harper, Ph.D., Bert and Natalie Vallee Professor of Molecular
Pathology, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Harper’s work as part of the Consortium
will focus on profiling the organization of the mitochondrial interactome in
response to ALS mutant proteins to determine whether expression of mutant
proteins linked to ALS leads to activation or inhibition of the mitochondrial
quality control system.

Christopher E. Henderson, Ph.D., Gurewitsch/Vidda Professor of Rehabilitation
and Regenerative Medicine, Pathology, Neurology and Neuroscience; Director,
Columbia Stem Cell Initiative; Co-Director, Center for Motor Neuron Biology
and Disease (MNC); Co-director, Project A.L.S. Laboratory for Stem Cell
Research; Columbia University. Dr. Henderson's work is focused on the
mechanisms of motor neuron growth, survival and cell death and how these are
regulated in human disease. His research as part of the Consortium is to
explore the differences between motor neurons in the spinal cord, which are
destroyed in ALS, and those which move the eyes, which are unaffected in ALS,
with the goal of identifying genes that may confer protection against the

Arthur L. Horwich, M.D., Sterling Professor of Genetics and Professor of
Pediatrics, Yale School of Medicine; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical
Institute, Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Horwich’s research as part
of the Consortium is focused on the role of the SOD1 gene, which has been
associated with protein misfolding and has been shown to play a role in
pathology of ALS. In particular, the lab will explore whether misfolded SOD1
protein can spread from affected tissue to normal tissue using mouse models of

Lee L. Rubin, Ph.D., Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology; Director
of Translational Medicine, Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Harvard University.
Dr. Rubin’s work uses a stem cell based approach to understand
neurodegenerative diseases. Dr. Rubin’s work as part of the Consortium is to
develop SOD mouse or human motor neuron cell lines that capture early
pathological changes and use these cellular phenotypes to identify drug-like
molecules/pathways that affect disease pathology to identify potential
therapeutic leads.

Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Ph.D., President; Carson Family Professor; Head of the
Laboratory of Brain Development and Repair, The Rockefeller University. Dr.
Tessier-Lavigne’s laboratory investigates how neural circuits in the brain
form during embryonic development. As part of the Consortium, Dr.
Tessier-Lavigne’s lab will investigate cell death pathways and determine how
they contribute to motoneuron degeneration and disease progression in ALS.

Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas, Ph.D. will oversee the Consortium on behalf of
Biogen Idec and will lead research efforts for the company and his lab at
Harvard University. Dr. Artavanis-Tsakonas’s Consortium research focus will
employ high throughput screens in Drosophila (often called “fruit flies”) to
identify genes that effect ALS dependent phenotypes resulting from expression
of disease causing forms of SOD1, TDP-43 and FUS, and to identify protein
complexes associated with ALS-related proteins in humans and Drosophila.

Biogen Idec Commitment to ALS Research

Biogen Idec is committed to advancing the understanding and treatment of ALS.
The company is working with researchers around the globe to explore ways to
create better outcomes for people with ALS.

Biogen Idec is investigating multiple compounds in ALS, with two compounds in
preclinical research. In 2012, the company entered into a research
collaboration with Duke University and Hudson Alpha Institute to sequence the
genomes of up to 1,000 people with ALS over the next five years in an effort
to gain a deeper understanding about the fundamental genetic causes of the
disease. Duke and Hudson Alpha will work with several world-class researchers
who have deep expertise and experience with ALS and the genes associated with
the disease.

In addition, Biogen Idec has sponsored research agreements with various
academic institutions with the shared goal of understanding the common course
of ALS from symptom onset to diagnosis, through treatment and life expectancy.

The company has also contributed $500,000 to the University of Massachusetts
Medical School ALS Champion Fund. The funding will increase awareness of ALS
and support basic and clinical science research into potential treatments for
ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases.

About ALS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease and motor
neuron disease, is a universally and rapidly fatal neurodegenerative disorder
characterized by progressive muscle weakness and wasting. ALS affects adults
in the prime of life and creates a substantial burden for caregivers.
Worldwide incidence of ALS is approximately two people per 100,000. Only one
drug has been approved for the treatment of ALS, and it typically extends
survival by two to three months. Life expectancy after the onset of symptoms
is usually three to five years. Though mutations in several genetic factors
result in ALS, the precise mechanistic cause is not yet known.

About Biogen Idec

Through cutting-edge science and medicine, Biogen Idec discovers, develops and
delivers to patients worldwide innovative therapies for the treatment of
neurodegenerative diseases, hemophilia and autoimmune disorders. Founded in
1978, Biogen Idec is the world’s oldest independent biotechnology company.
Patients worldwide benefit from its leading multiple sclerosis therapies, and
the company generates more than $5 billion in annual revenues. For product
labeling, press releases and additional information about the company, please

Biogen Idec Safe Harbor Statement

This press release contains forward-looking statements, including statements
about the development of potential therapies for ALS. These forward-looking
statements may be accompanied by such words as "anticipate," "believe,"
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uncertainties that are described in the Risk Factors section of Biogen Idec
Inc.’s most recent annual or quarterly report and in other reports Biogen Idec
Inc. has filed with the SEC. These statements are based on current beliefs and
expectations and speak only as of the date of this press release. Biogen Idec
Inc. does not undertake any obligation to publicly update any forward-looking


Biogen Idec Media Contact:
Banks Willis, 781-464-3260
Biogen Idec Public Affairs
Biogen Idec Investor Contact:
Kia Khaleghpour, 781-464-2442
Director, Investor Relations
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