After Diagnosis, a Yale Alum Establishes Nonprofit Focused on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

According to a story from the Yale Daily News, Brian Wallach, class of 2003, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in November of 2017. Although being diagnosed with the lethal rare disease was devastating, Brian was not going to take his diagnosis lying down and decided to take action when he founded the nonprofit organization I Am ALS, which is intended to support the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patient community and raise money to support research related to the disease.

About Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a rare, degenerative disease that causes the death of nerve cells associated with the voluntary muscles. Little is known about the origins of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, with no definitive cause in about 95 percent of cases. The remaining five percent appear to inherit the disease from their parents. Symptoms initially include loss of coordination, muscle weakness and atrophy, muscle stiffness and cramping, and trouble speaking, breathing, or swallowing. These symptoms worsen steadily over time; most patients die because of respiratory complications. Treatment is mostly symptomatic and the medication riluzole can prolong life. Life expectancy after diagnosis ranges from two to four years, but some patients can survive for substantially longer. To learn more about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, click here.

The Work of I Am ALS

The organization aims to help reshape the way that the public view amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. I Am ALS wants to center and empower patients in the quest to find new treatments and a cure for the illness. Over the next three years, the group has laid out an ambitious goal to raise $100 million in research funding. 

Brian says that he and his wife Sandra first got the idea of starting I Am ALS after they met with representatives from other ALS related groups from around the country. He said that almost all of the groups said that, if they had any extra money, they would put it towards more disease-related research. The leadership of the organization includes Louise Langheier, who was a classmate of Brian’s. She says that I Am ALS hopes to unify other groups related to the disease to build greater momentum for meeting the needs of patients across the country.

To learn more about the group’s activities, click here.

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