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Biogen Idec names ALS unit head

Donald Johns joins from Novartis

biogen idec Donald JohnsBiogen Idec has named former Novartis scientist Dr Donald Johns as head of its innovation hub for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Dr Johns was previously global head of neuroscience translational medicine at Novartis, leading the neuroscience strategy at the Swiss pharma company.

He takes on a more specific role at Biogen Idec, leading a new unit dedicated to accelerating the discovery and development of novel therapies for ALS, a neurological condition that that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

ALS, which is commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease in the US and as motor neurone disease in certain other countries, has received a boost in awareness in recent weeks due to the ALS ice bucket challenge. The campaign, which has gone viral via social media, challenges people to pour a bucket of ice water on themselves to encourage donations to ALS charities.

Biogen Idec intends to advance its research in the area with the innovation hub, which the company says will “create a new model for developing ALS therapies by incorporating the latest science, technology and advances in clinical trial design”.

Commenting on the company's ambitions, Dr Johns said: “With the ALS iHub, we have the opportunity to integrate our existing understanding of ALS with new approaches and technologies to catalyse the effective drug discovery and development of new treatments for ALS.”

Dr Johns served at Novartis from 2004 to 2014. Prior to this he was involved in academic roles in neurology, including serving as associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.

28th August 2014

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