Northwestern selected as neuroscience clinical trials site

Children's Memorial will lead up SMA biomarker study

 Neuromuscular team     

From left: Pallavi Patwari, MD; Nancy Kuntz, MD;
Kristin Krosschell, PT/MA; Christine DiDonato, PhD;
Debra Weese-Mayer, MD

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine has been selected as a clinical site in the Network for Excellence in Neuroscience Clinical Trials (NEXT) through the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health.

NEXT is designed to increase the efficiency of clinical trials, facilitate patient recruitment and retention, increase the quality of neuroscience clinical trials, and enable public-private partnerships. This clinical research network will develop and conduct multiple, scientifically sound, possibly biomarker-informed exploratory clinical trials evaluating the most promising therapies. The network will provide a robust, standardized and accessible infrastructure to facilitate rapid development and implementation of protocols in neurological disorders affecting adult and/or pediatric populations. While the network will not be specific to one disease, it will have the capacity to coordinate a cadre of specialist investigators to implement studies efficiently in response to disease-specific opportunities.

The Northwestern NEXT site will be based at the Neurology Clinical Trials Center (NCTC) of the Feinberg School. NCTC is a collaborative effort that coordinates faculty and resources of three major Northwestern University-affiliated clinical facilities: Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Children's Memorial Hospital and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Tanya Simuni, MD, Associate professor of Neurology and director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at the Feinberg School, is principal investigator of the project. Leon Epstein, MD, Derry A. and Donald L. Shoemaker Professor in Pediatric Neurology, Professor in Pediatrics and Ken and Ruth Davee Department of Neurology at the Feinberg School, and head of the Division of Neurology at Children’s Memorial, is the Children’s Memorial principal investigator.

It is anticipated that the first NEXT project to be conducted by the Northwestern team will be a biomarker study of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a genetic disease that attacks nerve cells, or motor neurons, in the spinal cord. Motor neurons communicate with voluntary muscles such as those in the arms and legs, and as the neurons are lost, individuals with SMA lose the ability to use the muscles. Nancy Kuntz, MD; Christine DiDonato, PhD; Debra Weese-Mayer, MD; Kristin Krosschell, PT/MA; and Pallavi Patwari, MD are co-investigators on this study.