NextGen, MU School of Medicine receive national ALS grant

W. David Arnold, MD, the executive director of NextGen and a professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation

The NextGen Precision Health Initiative and the University of Missouri School of Medicine are one step closer to helping patients diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). W. David Arnold, MD, the executive director of NextGen and a professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, is one of five individuals nationwide to win the 2023 Trial Capacity award from the ALS Association. He also sees patients impacted by ALS as a physician at MU Health Care, which is a Certified Treatment Center of Excellence by the ALS Association.

The award grants $400,000 and will fund a new position in NextGen, a role dedicated to identifying and removing barriers to participating in clinical trials for rural Missourians with ALS, like transportation or ease of access. This person will also streamline communication between researchers and be the point of contact for patients interested in participating in these trials.

“I hope this person to be a valuable resource for ALS research at the University of Missouri and to be the champion for improving clinical research access for rural Missourians,” Arnold said.

ALS is a rare, progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells, weakening muscles and impairing motor function. As motor function decreases, people may lose the ability to talk, walk, eat and breathe – eventually resulting in death. Some research suggests the prevalence of ALS is higher in the Midwest, which makes it more critical to meet patients where they are.

“This grant will enable us to break down the barriers that keeps rural Missourians with ALS from participating in clinical trials,” said Dr. Barohn, Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Hugh E. Sarah D. Stephenson Dean of the School of Medicine. “It is a privilege to receive an opportunity to bring patient-focused care and research together.”

Arnold says there are multiple research studies involving ALS around MU, and the grant will help improve communication and foster collaboration between researchers. Currently, there isn’t a lot of patient involvement from rural Missourians, but this grant will change that.

“We're trying to push the envelope. A lot of patients really want to be involved in research,” Arnold said. “We want to try to make that as accessible as possible for all of our patients.”


NextGen Precision Health Institute logo

Highlighting the promise of personalized health care and the impact of large-scale interdisciplinary collaboration, the NextGen Precision Health initiative is bringing together innovators from across the University of Missouri and the UM System’s three other research universities in pursuit of life-changing precision health advancements. It’s a collaborative effort to leverage the research strengths of Mizzou toward a better future for the health of Missourians and beyond. The Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health building at MU anchors the overall initiative and expands collaboration between researchers, clinicians and industry partners in the state-of-the-art research facility.