Directors & Staff

The ALS Therapy Alliance is fortunate to have a Board of Directors comprised of talented clinicians, scientists and business associates who are committed to the organization’s mission.

With the board’s supervision, more than $30 million dollars has been generated to execute a wide range of research programs, which now involve multiple institutions in several countries.

Board of Directors: Robert H. Brown | Gregory Petsko | Lawrence J. Hayward | H. Robert Horvitz | Tom Maniatis | Craig C. Mello | Merit E. Cudkowicz | Jonathan Roberts | David Schwartz

Support Staff: Traci Bisson

Robert H. Brown, Jr., D.Phil., M.D, President, Clerk

Robert H. Brown, Jr., D.Phil., M.D., earned his bachelor’s degree in biophysics at Amherst College, a doctorate of philosophy in neurophysiology at Oxford University and a doctorate in medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is presently the Chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Dr. Brown’s primary research interest has been inherited, paralytic neuromuscular disorders with a focus, since 1980, on ALS. He currently serves as the director and organizer of the ALS Therapy Alliance, and is a non-voting member on the board.

As part of a consortium of investigators, Dr. Brown played a central role in the discovery of mutations or genetic variants in several ALS-related genes including cytosolic superoxide dismutase, alsin, dynactin, KIFAP3 and FUS/TLS.

Dr. Brown has also identified gene defects causing three other diseases known as Miyoshi myopathy (dysferlin), hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (skeletal muscle sodium channel) and familial sensory neuropathy (serine palmitoyltransferase).

Gregory A. Petsko, D.Phil., Treasurer

Gregory A. Petsko, D.Phil. is professor of neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and the Tauber Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry, Emeritus, at Brandeis University. He received a Rhodes Scholarship and obtained his doctorate from Oxford University with Sir David Chilton Phillips in 1973. He is concerned with the three-dimensional structures of proteins and their biochemical functions, especially proteins involved in neurodegenerative diseases. Most of his work is done in collaboration with Brandeis Prof. Dagmar Ringe. He is a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, as well as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He is a past president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and president-elect of the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He is coauthor with Dagmar Ringe of the book Protein Structure and Function. With her he has trained almost 150 graduate students and postdocs over the past 32 years. He is also the co-founder of two publicly traded biotechnology companies.

His laboratory currently focuses on understanding and developing treatments for ALS, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Using a combination of genetics and biochemistry in a model organism, his group discovered that over expression of the human UPF1 gene can suppress the toxicity of mutant FUS/TLS and mutant TDP-43 in neuronal cell models of ALS. Gene therapy that his group developed based on this discovery is currently being tested in animal models.

As the author of a monthly column in Genome Biology, he has a forum for a restless and wide-ranging intellect concerned with scientific and policy issues ranging from the iniquitous influence of impact factors to the effect of mass population shifts, such as our current trend toward a senior-citizen society. He has also written about the scientific basis of the Atkins diet and the importance of the arts and humanities in scientific education. He admits, however, that the columns guest written by his two dogs are much more popular than those he writes himself.

Lawrence J. Hayward, M.D., Ph.D., Director

Lawrence J. Hayward, M.D., Ph.D. received his doctorate degrees in neuroscience and medicine from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. He completed a neurology residency and neuromuscular disease fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital. During that time, his research focused on neuromuscular conditions caused by defective ion channels. In 2000, Dr. Hayward started his own laboratory at the University of Massachusetts Medical School as an assistant professor of neurology. Dr. Hayward became an associate professor in 2003 and serves as joint faculty in the departments of physiology, biochemistry and molecular pharmacology, and the program in neuroscience. He sees patients regularly in the Neuromuscular Clinic and on the wards, contributes to medical school and resident teaching, and serves as a mentor for graduate students and fellows in the laboratory.

In 1998, Dr. Hayward initiated biochemical studies with Dr. Robert Brown to identify toxic properties of mutant SOD1 enzymes that cause familial ALS.

Dr. Hayward’s group and collaborators have shown that impaired zinc binding and other vulnerabilities produce misfolded forms of the SOD1 protein that are prone to aggregation or other abnormal interactions. Since 2008, the lab has focused upon establishing new in vivo models using mouse and zebrafish systems to investigate mechanisms by which mutant forms of nucleic acid binding proteins cause ALS.

H. Robert Horvitz, Ph.D., Director

H. Robert Horvitz, Ph.D., received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2002; is the David H. Koch Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; a neurobiologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital; and a member of the MIT McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the MIT Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

In addition, he is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the organization that runs the Intel Science Talent Search and publishes Science News. Dr. Horvitz received his bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and performed his Ph.D. studies in biology at Harvard University.

Dr. Horvitz was a postdoctoral scientist at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, and has been an assistant, associate and full professor in the Department of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Horvitz has received numerous awards for his accomplishments. Some of these honors include: Charles A. Dana Award for Pioneering Achievement in Health (1995); General Motors Cancer Research Foundation, Sloan Prize (1998); Gairdner Foundation International Award (1999); March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology (2000); the Genetics Society of America Medal (2001); the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Neuroscience (2001); the Wiley Prize in the Biomedical Sciences (2002); the Peter Gruber Foundation Genetics Prize (2002); the American Cancer Society Medal of Honor (2002); and the Alfred G. Knudson Award of the National Cancer Institute (2005). He has also received several honorary degrees and has served on many editorial boards and committees.

Dr. Horvitz has achieved world-wide recognition for his discoveries of cell death genes and his delineation of the molecular pathways through which these genes operate. These discoveries continue to have new and compelling implications across basic cell biology and much of medicine, including the fields of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, like ALS.

Tom Maniatis, Ph.D., Director

Tom Maniatis, Ph.D., is the Isidore S. Edelman Professor and Chairman of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at the Columbia University Medical Center. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a doctorate in molecular biology from Vanderbilt University. His postdoctoral studies were carried out at Harvard University and at the Medical Research Council for Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England.

Dr. Maniatis has held research and academic positions at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, and  he recently retired from Harvard University after 30 years on the faculty.

Dr. Maniatis’ research has been recognized by numerous awards, including the Eli Lilly Award in Microbiology and Immunology, the Scientific Achievement Award of the American Medical Association, the Richard Lounsbery Award for Biology and Medicine, and the Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award in Biotechnology and Medicine, as well as membership in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Maniatis is best known for pioneering the development and application of recombinant DNA methods to the study of gene regulation. His research has impacted a broad spectrum of biomedical fields, from basic mechanisms of gene expression to advances in understanding human genetic and inflammatory diseases. Dr Maniatis’ laboratory is currently using both mouse and human pluripotent stem cells to study ALS disease mechanisms.

Craig C. Mello, Ph.D., Director

Dr. Craig C. Mello is the Investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Blais University Chair in Molecular Medicine, and Co-director, RNA Therapeutics Institute, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA. He received his B.Sc. degree in Biochemistry from Brown University in 1982, and received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1990.

From 1990 to 1994, he conducted postdoctoral research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA.  Dr. Mello is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Blais University Chair in Molecular Medicine and Co-director of the RNA Therapeutics Institute at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Dr. Mello’s pioneering research on RNAi, in collaboration with Dr. Andrew Fire, has been recognized with many prestigious awards culminating with the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Dr. Mello, along with his colleague, Dr. Andrew Fire, discovered the process by which a particular form of ribonucleic acid – RNA, the cellular material responsible for the transmission of genetic information – can silence targeted genes.  This RNAi process offers astounding potential for understanding and manipulating the cellular basis of human disease, and RNAi is now the state-of-the-art method by which scientists can “knock out” the expression of specific genes to thus define the biological functions of those genes.  Just as important has been the finding that RNAi is a normal process of genetic regulation that takes place during development, opening a new window on developmental gene regulation.

Merit E. Cudkowicz, M.D., Director

Dr. Merit Cudkowicz is a Professor of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital, at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Cudkowicz earned her Bachelors of Science degree in Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and completed medical training at the Health Science and Technology program of Harvard Medical School. She obtained a Master’s degree in Clinical Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health. She was a Resident and Chief Resident in Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). She was a fellow in the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)/ Massachusetts Institute of Technology Clinical Investigator Training Program from 1994 to 1996.

Dr. Cudkowicz’s research and clinical activities are dedicated to the study and treatment of patients with neurodegenerative disorders, in particular amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Dr. Cudkowicz directs the MGH ALS clinic and the MGH Neurology Clinical Trials Unit. She is one of the founders and co-directors of the Northeast ALS Consortium, a group of 92 clinical sites in the United States and Canada dedicated to performing collaborative academic led clinical trials in ALS. In conjunction with the NEALS consortium, she planned and completed 7 multi-center clinical trials in ALS and is currently leading three new trials in ALS. Dr. Cudkowicz received the American Academy of Neurology 2009 Sheila Essay ALS award.

She has been a pioneer in promoting and developing more efficient methods of testing new therapies in people with ALS. She is actively mentoring young neurologists in clinical investigation in ALS and related neurodegenerative disorders. She is Dr. Cudkowicz is on the medical advisory board for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association.

Jonathan C. Roberts, Director

Jonathan Roberts is EVP of CVS Caremark and President for the company’s Pharmacy Benefit Management (PBM) business. In this role, Mr. Roberts and his team are focused on reinventing pharmacy in order to help the company’s PBM clients improve health care outcomes for their members while managing overall health care costs.

Mr. Roberts has more than 30 years of pharmacy health care experience, 21 of those with CVS Caremark. He has developed a reputation as a results-driven leader, whose analytical approach has enabled him to successfully lead a diverse array of initiatives across the organization.

He most recently served as Chief Operating Officer of the PBM business, supporting the company’s efforts to build a world-class infrastructure designed to address the changing needs of its PBM clients and their members. In that role, he was responsible for PBM and Specialty Pharmacy Operations, Trade and Pharmaceutical Purchasing, Underwriting and PBM Networks. Previously he was EVP of Pharmaceutical Purchasing, Pricing and Network Relations for CVS Caremark. Prior to that role, Mr. Roberts served as the company’s Chief Information Officer, where he spearheaded several key programs, including the Pharmacy Service Initiative (PSI), which significantly enhanced pharmacy performance at CVS/pharmacy, and was highlighted in business case studies at the Harvard Business School and Yale School of Management. He also served as Senior Vice President of Retail Store Operations, following 20 years in retail field management positions.

Since 2002, Mr. Roberts has been actively involved in fundraising for ALS research, and helped establish an annual in-store fundraising campaign at CVS/pharmacy. Together, CVS Caremark and its customers have raised more than $30 million to support the ALS Therapy Alliance in its research efforts.

Mr. Roberts earned his degree in pharmacy from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy. He is an active member on a number of Boards of Directors including the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA); New Century Health, a specialty care management company; ALS Therapy Alliance, and is a member of the ALS Association’s National Board of Trustees. Mr. Roberts also is a member of the Advisory Council for the Norman Prince Neurosciences Institute.

David Schwartz, Director

David Schwartz is a partner with the law firm of Schwartz & Roman PLLC, and licensed to practice law in NH, MA, ME, VT, FL and GA.

He received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University, his law degree from the University of Miami, and his Master of Law degree in Taxation from Boston University.

David assisted in setting up the ALS Therapy Alliance in 2002, and has been its legal counsel and a major supporter since its inception.
Traci Bisson, Executive Director

Traci Bisson started with the ALS Therapy Alliance as the Project Research Manager in 2002.

In November 2012, she was named the organization’s Executive Director. She manages the annual Breakthrough ALS fundraising campaign with CVS/pharmacy and other partners, which has raised more than $30 million for ALS research.

Traci also manages the organization’s operations, grant submission process, website and blog, marketing and social media strategies and public relations.