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Nonprofit Foundations Launch Study to Improve Preclinical Research

Goal: improve future decision-making in the selection of drugs to advance to clinical trials in Duchenne muscular dystrophy

President and COO Laura with our partners Alex, David, and Emily from Duchenne UK

  • Charley’s Fund, with support from Duchenne UK, Ryan’s Quest, Michael’s Cause, and Pietro’s Fight, announces a grant to launch study to improve preclinical decision-making
  • The grant provides $314,000 USD to the labs of Professor Annemieke Aartsma-Rus and Dr. Maaike van Putten (Leiden University Medical Center) and Professor Annamaria De Luca (University of Bari) for a study to identify new and updated best practices in the use of two mouse models of Duchenne when evaluating potential new drugs
  • This study grows out of and advances the goals of an ongoing global initiative called ‘Of Mice and Measures’ to improve models and methods for preclinical research in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD)
  • Study outcomes will be made available open-access to help accelerate all DMD drug development

In recent years, the Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) field has seen an increasing number of medicines being tested in clinical trials. Selecting which treatments to advance to human testing is a critical decision, especially given Duchenne’s aggressive progression and urgent unmet medical need, coupled with the recruitment challenges faced by rare disease populations.

Several years ago, Charley’s Fund — in partnership with leading scientists from the DMD community — launched a global, collaborative initiative to improve how the Duchenne research field decides which drugs have the best chance at success and should advance to human clinical trials. At a 2018 workshop, representatives from 22 institutions gathered to discuss results from a community-wide data collection and analysis effort. The results provided a data-driven understanding of the extent of variability and inconsistency present in DMD preclinical research practices today. For example, across 10 leading labs and more than 18,000 datapoints analyzed, not one single outcome was assessed in all labs. To help solve this problem, the group recommended a study specifically designed to obtain the data necessary to establish best-practice guidelines that all labs could apply, starting with updates to best practices for the gold-standard mouse model (some of which have not been revisited for more than a decade) and establishment of best practices for a promising but emerging model.

The study announced today reflects the input of that workshop and is designed to gather the necessary data in rigorous, replicated fashion. The teams of Profs. Aartsma-Rus and De Luca will run parallel, matching 52-week studies of two mouse models of DMD — the current gold standard C57BL/10ScSn-Dmdmdx/J model and the emerging D2.B10-Dmdmdx/J model — and conduct assessments of some of the most commonly used behavioral, anatomical, and physiological DMD-relevant assays. The broader Of Mice and Measures scientific organizing committee will provide ongoing input as needed, and an independent biostatistician will participate in designing and validating the data analyses.

The study teams will use the results to draft updated, comprehensive, best-practice guidance on how to use each of the two models depending on the research objective, as well as identify open questions for continuing research. DMD scientists and companies will then have open-access to the guidance to better identify relevant methodologies and study designs, as well as improve consistency and comparability of data. Funding organizations will likewise have access to these recommendations for consideration when reviewing research proposals.

“We need to give promising science the best shot at advancing quickly,” said Laura Dalle Pazze, President and COO of Charley’s Fund. “We also need better ways to weed out ineffective therapies early, before patients and families get involved in clinical trials. We’re always going to have clinical trials that fail — if we knew the answers in advance, we wouldn’t need the trials. But, we need to improve our hit rate, and the only way to do that is to ask hard questions about where we as a field can improve and then do the work to make it happen.”

“We are pleased to be a part of this initiative that looks beyond individual drug development efforts and seeks to develop tools and resources to help all research move forward — especially for this critical inflection point in research.” added Emily Crossley and Alex Johnson, cofounders of Duchenne UK. “The better we equip our research community, the better they can focus on finding drugs that work for the children and young adults who so desperately need them.”

“We are very pleased to have these patient organizations support this important work,” said Profs. Aartsma-Rus and De Luca. “The field is aware of the importance of collecting natural history data for patients; however, doing so for preclinical models — and doing so with this level of thought and rigor — is equally important. We are grateful to work with the international scientific and patient communities to make it happen.”

Of Mice and Measures is an ongoing, collaborative effort to improve models and methods for preclinical research in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Those interested in learning more can access the initial workshop report here as well as more information at, including a 2018 World Muscle Society poster. Anyone interested in contributing to the effort with funding, data, or other resources should contact Charley’s Fund President and COO Laura Dalle Pazze at laura[at]

Charley’s Fund is grateful to Duchenne UK, Ryan’s Quest, Michael’s Cause, and Pietro’s Fight for their support in making this new study and key next step in the Of Mice and Measures project possible.


About Charley’s Fund

For fifteen years, Charley’s Fund has been a force in accelerating research to treat and cure Duchenne muscular dystrophy — the most aggressive form of muscular dystrophy and #1 genetic killer of children worldwide. Focused on clearing roadblocks that get in the way of new treatments, the organization’s efforts span a diverse range of activities from funding promising early stage therapeutics to tackling pressing field-wide research problems. These activities are all connected by one common thread: a commitment to doing whatever it takes to save Charley and 300,000 like him living with Duchenne. Since inception, Charley’s Fund has pursued its ambitious agenda with urgency, creativity, and unflagging focus. Over the course of directing more than $45 million to these research-accelerating efforts, Charley’s Fund has stayed true to its lean and mighty roots while also establishing itself as an organization of major global impact.

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About Duchenne UK

Duchenne UK is a lean, ambitious and highly focused charity with a clear vision: to fund and accelerate treatments and a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. We are investing millions of pounds in research right now to bring treatments and a cure to help this generation. Duchenne UK is the largest funder of DMD research in the UK. We are also committed to accelerating the pace of research. 90p in every £1 raised is committed to research. Our president is HRH The Duchess of Cornwall. Our patrons include the broadcasters Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Mary Nightingale, and the sports stars Owen Farrell, Kris Radlinski and Andy Farrell.

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About Ryan’s Quest, Michael’s Cause, and Pietro’s Fight
Ryan’s Quest (NJ), Michael’s Cause (NY), and Pietro’s Fight (NY) are grassroots foundations founded by families affected by Duchenne. The foundations raise awareness of Duchenne and direct all funding to the best medical and scientific research to find better treatments and a future cure for this disease. These family-founded and operated organizations believe that collaboration between Duchenne patient organizations is essential to speeding potential therapies through the drug development pipeline.

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