Robert McBurney

Robert McBurney
Accelerated Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis (ACP)
Waltham, MA, United States

Speaker of Workshop 3

Will talk about: Orion Bionetworks: An innovative alliance for Multiple Sclerosis Disease Modeling

Bio sketch:

Robert McBurney is CEO of the Accelerated Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis (ACP), a non-profit organization accelerating efforts to cure MS by catalyzing research.  Prior to joining ACP, Robert co-founded Optimal Medicine Ltd., a UK company developing systems for optimizing the treatment of mental illness.  His former positions include Executive VP of TheraGenetics Ltd.; CSO of BG Medicine, Inc.; CEO of Differential Proteomics, Inc.; and, CEO of Cambridge Neuroscience, Inc.  Robert was formerly Assistant Director of the UK Medical Research Council Neuroendocrinology Unit and has held positions at the National Institutes of Health, Cambridge University and the University of New South Wales.  He is a director of Optimal Medicine and a Trustee of the F. W. Olin College of Engineering.  Robert received BSc and PhD degrees from the University of New South Wales, Australia.

Talk abstract:

Despite great strides in medicine over the past century, only a very small fraction of the more than 12,000 diseases separately classified by the World Health Organization can currently be cured or prevented. What we don’t know about health and disease far exceeds what we do know. We have a fundamental need for models that can explain the contributions of the components of a biological system to its healthy or diseased state. Such models must also enable exploration of the effects of altering those components, in order to reveal novel targets for drug discovery and predict treatment outcomes.

Highly valuable disease models can be constructed with the following essential building blocks:

  • Advanced clinical knowledge of the disease
  • High-quality, comprehensive clinical, functional, environmental, and lifestyle data from people with the disease, people with other related or unrelated diseases, and healthy people (control subjects)
  • High-quality, comprehensive molecular data obtained from body fluids and tissue (biosamples) from people with the disease, people with other related or unrelated diseases, and control subjects
  • Outcomes data and biosamples from people with the disease who have been treated with drugs (system perturbagens) — preferably, perturbagens with different mechanisms of action
  • Multiple approaches to creating the disease model, which can be employed in parallel
  • Model development and validation datasets

The Phase 1 goal of Orion Bionetworks is to develop an initial disease model for MS, which ultimately will become publicly available. An additional goal is to create and evaluate a framework for establishing alliances in other disease areas.