Symposium abstracts available online

28th Abstract bookThe 28th International Symposium on ALS/MND in Boston, USA is fast approaching with only three weeks to go. Over 1,000 delegates will come from across the world to listen to over 100 talks and see around 450 posters. To see what will be discussed in these presentations, you can now download the full abstract book from the Taylor and Francis website (volume 18, S2 November 2017).

For an overview of the talks, you can visit the Symposium website or download a print version of the programme.

We will be reporting from the Symposium to update you on what was discussed in the sessions via the Symposium website and using #alssymp via our Twitter account @mndassoc.

International Symposium on ALS/MND: Destination Orlando

The August Bank holiday weekend is always greeted with a sigh of relief from the Research Development Team as it signals the sending off of the International Symposium on ALS/MND abstract book to the publishers.

The book includes teasers/previews – called abstracts – of all the talks and posters that will be presented at this year’s symposium. It is the result of many months of hard work by the team, hours of editing and proof reading, and the sending and receiving of hundreds of emails.orlando 2015 logo

But why is the symposium such a big deal and why are the MND Association involved in organising it?

The birth of the International Symposium on ALS/MND

It all started in Birmingham…

The key to defeating MND lies in fostering strong collaboration between leading researchers around the world, and sharing new understanding of the disease as rapidly as possible. This was the MND Association’s reasoning behind the creation of the International Symposium on ALS/MND.

The first was held in Birmingham in 1990, and was attended by 50 MND researchers. From then on it has grown and grown, and is now a truly international event. In order to attract a wider international audience and invite local experts to speak the location changes each year. Previously it has been held in locations including Sydney, Chicago and Milan.

Last year in Brussels we had 848 people attend, showing how large the global MND research community has become. We expect a similar number of people to attend this year.Read More »

On the seventh day of Christmas MND research gave to me: Seven research strategy themes

“On the seventh day of Christmas MND research gives to you… our SEVEN research strategy themes”

It’s New Year’s eve, a time to look back and celebrate on 2014 and our MND research achievements. It’s also a time to look to the future; in 2015 we will be funding new MND research in line with our research strategy.

Our 2010-2015 research strategy focuses on seven key themes.

causes1) Identifying the causes of MND

The exact cause of the majority of cases of MND is still unknown. Therefore identifying the causes is our first step in understanding MND and developing future treatments.

In 2014 we identified two new inherited MND genes and also announced funding for the UK Whole Genome Sequencing project to better identify the rarer genetic factors involved in causing the disease. Read more.

models2) Create and validate new models

Once we identify a genetic cause of MND, we need to find out how this gene causes MND. Animal and cellular models help us to find out how the gene affects the motor neurones and how this causes disease in a complex animal system. Read More »

Abstract statistics

In the heat of August (for once I can actually write that, without my fingers crossed behind my back!), statistics relating to the production of the must-have document for the 24th International Symposium on ALS/MND in Milan in December might seem extremely ‘abstract’!

Abstracts are scientific summaries of the research that will be presented at the largest annual scientific conference on MND, organised by the MND Association. We have had a bumper year for people wishing to present their work, with over 500 summaries received. sympopromo

In the last month, my colleagues Lucy, Sam and Pauline have been busy preparing the text of these summaries, to send to the publisher. We pressed the ‘send’ button on the 15 August, much to the relief of all concerned.

They will be published online for all to access and download at the beginning of November. But if you’re curious to see what they look like, the presentations from last year are still available.

Here’s a countdown of some of the abstract statistics so far:

  • 750, 000 + words read in total by the research team at the MND Association between May and August
  • 189, 618 words were sent to the publishers for the abstract book, in the form of a 357 page document (Font: Times 10 pt in case you were wondering.. !)
  •  3, 515 different researchers have contributed to the abstracts, making an average of 7 authors per summary – showing the truly collaborative nature of MND research
  • 103 talks are scheduled in the programme, now available to view online on our website
  •  320 poster presentations in the abstract book, with over 70 additional posters to be presented on care practice and work in progress

We look forward to sharing with you our progress as we prepare for Milan. You can also follow the story on Twitter using the #alssymp hashtag.

A 'Word Cloud' created with
A ‘Word Cloud’ created with

The International Symposium on ALS/MND

Every year in December the MND Association organizes the largest medical and scientific conference specific to MND in the world.

The International Symposium on ALS/MND attracts over 800 researchers, clinicians and healthcare professionals, representing the energy and dynamism of the global MND research community. The symposium in Chicago last year had a record attendance of over 900 delegates with 419 abstracts presented. This year’s event promises to be just as successful with a record number of 510 abstracts!

What is the symposium?


The aim of the symposium is to enable leading researchers around the world to foster strong collaborations and encourages the sharing of new knowledge of the disease as rapidly as possible. To find out more see our website.

This year’s symposium will be held in Milan, Italy from 6 – 8 December and we will be reporting live from the event via this blog. We will be blogging about the exciting clinical and scientific MND research developments discussed at the event; from biomarkers to clinical trials and genetics.

We will also be tweeting from the symposium, as well as posting updates leading up to the event, using the hastag #alssymp.


Abstracts or ‘scientific summaries’ are an overview of a particular piece of research. These summaries briefly explain a piece of research to give the reader a ‘taste’ of what is to come.

All 510 abstracts have been proof-read by myself, Lucy and Belinda in preparation for them to be published Open Access on 4 November 2013. Once published these abstracts can be read by the research community, whom can then register to attend the symposium if they want to find out more!

These abstracts give us an exciting ‘hint’ of what is going to be discussed at this year’s symposium but we won’t know the juicy stuff until the day so-to-speak.


As well as organising and processing all of these abstracts, we also have to compile a programme (that is now available to view online here). This programme shows the schedule of talks, themes and topics to encourage researchers to register to attend the event.

An experience!

Lucy Smith, Research Information Administrator
Lucy Smith, Research Information Administrator

This is Lucy’s first experience of the preparation of the symposium and she summarised her thoughts about the event below:

“I’ve found that organising the symposium is very much like organising a wedding! There’s a lot to do, but you can only do certain things at a certain time – which can be a bit manic at times! For example: Once the withdrawal deadline had passed we had to edit, proof read, check and number all of the abstracts in three weeks!

“I was surprised, being from a science background, that I found the clinical work more interesting than some of the scientific abstracts. In particular what I found interesting was how the work is really changing the day to day lives of people living with MND and making a difference to actual people.”

Milan has already broken the abstract record, we’ll have to wait until December to see if anymore records can be broken!

One week to go until Chicago!

November has been an incredibly busy time for us, not because of Christmas, but because the 23rd International Symposium on ALS/MND is now only one week away! We’ve been incredibly busy building up for this year’s symposium including; preparing the final abstract book, promoting the #alssymp hashtag on Twitter and gathering enough information to support Belinda before she flies off to Chicago.

Abstracts, abstracts, abstracts!

As well as all of this, the abstracts were, for the first time, made available online, with free open-access, earlier this month. This was a milestone for us as previous years we just had hard copies of all of the abstracts available at the symposium. However, with advances in mobile technology and WiFi, this year it was decided that only the platform presentations would be available as hard copies during the symposium and all abstracts would be available online and free to view for all.

You can view and download the abstracts online now via our website.

Reporting LIVE

We, the Motor Neurone Disease Association, will be proudly reporting LIVE from the symposium through this blog. We will be reporting on a variety of interesting topics and talks so that you can be up to date with what is happening in terms of MND research.

If you want to follow the symposium on Twitter, you can do so by following the #alssymp hashtag.

It almost time for my annual upload of matters MND research!

Whilst I try and keep up to date with what’s going on in the field for the rest of the year, it definitely goes in peaks and troughs. One ‘peak’ occurs in May, when I’m reading through the Symposium abstracts for the first time. Another is at the end of our research funding cycles, when Sadie, Marion and Natasha have done all the hard work of getting the applications out to review and comments back again and final decisions have been made on what we’re able to fund.

At the Symposium I get to hear more about those abstracts that really sparked my interest in May. This year, I feel I’ve been slightly more organised than usual and I already have a list of poster presentations I’d like to visit. (It’s a much harder task to decide which posters to visit compared to which talks to listen to- there are more posters!). Part of this organisation is that as the abstracts have been available and online for almost three weeks now I really don’t have an excuse not to do any work before I get there (you can read them too – here) !

The grants that we are funding give me a chance to personally connect with some of the research underway. I might have the opportunity to catch up with some of the researchers working on these projects. It’s always good to put a face to a name, and occasionally I can point them in the direction of someone that they might be interested in collaborating with. Alternatively, I might see that a presentation being given at the Symposium has links with research we’re funding.

As well as learning about the new insights into the understanding of the various aspects of MND, the lab nerd in me is also on the look-out for novel experimental techniques! How people get the results is almost as interesting as what they found. (If two people can get the same results via two different methods, it gives us extra confidence that the results are right – this confirmation or repetition of results is a fundamental principle of scientific research).

I’m particularly looking forward to hearing what everyone’s talking about at this year’s Symposium, I hope that I can give you a flavour of what’s its like in the final preparations and attending this buzzy and exciting event over the next few weeks.

Preparing for the windy city: Symposium update

Every year we are responsible, as an Association, for organising the BIGGEST international conference event of the year on MND. The 23rd International Symposium on ALS/MND will return, after 16 years, to the windy city of Chicago from the 5-7 December this year.

This event is one of the most exciting events in the research calendar for those involved in MND research, and it promises to be full to the brim with exciting, cutting edge presentations. Scientists, clinicians and health care professionals across the globe come together every year for this stimulating event.

The deadline for abstract submission was back in May and we’ve been incredibly busy since then in compiling the abstracts for this year’s Symposium.

This year we received 419 high quality abstracts from across the globe, totalling 172,581 words! The Symposium Programme Committee, chaired by Prof. Wim Robberecht, had to review every single one of these in order to compile a stimulating and varied programme.

This year the Symposium will consist of a total of 96 oral presentations, with joint opening and closing plenary sessions on risk factors of the disease and the challenges of translating knowledge to treatment. There will be parallel scientific and clinical sessions exploring a wide variety of topics from target pathways, disease models and biomarkers, through to cognitive changes, multidisciplinary management and clinical trials. The final programme offers plenty of new ideas and key insights, particularly into the newly discovered C9ORF72 gene.

The Symposium will also see 251 poster presentations, and 55 work in progress poster presentations, showcased on a wide range of scientific and clinical themes that all sound incredibly interesting!

Me and Kelly have spent the past several weeks editing, formatting, proof reading and compiling all of these abstracts, which were sent to the publisher last week. The final document was 290 pages long and consisted of 150,096 words! The next stages of this process for us are to receive the proofs back from the publisher so that we can double, and triple, check them before they are ready for the Symposium. We will also be letting authors know their final poster numbers and timings so that they can get their presentations in order for the big event.

The full Program is available NOW on our website to give you an insight into the themes, and topics, that will be presented this year

Symposium update: first read complete, programme now available!

This week has seen a whirlwind of activity – and saw what seemed like never-ending rain, for Northampton at least! But as the week is drawing to a close, the sun has made a guest appearance and we’ve made headway with planning for the symposium which is now less than four months away.

For the past few weeks Kate, Belinda and I have been proof reading. After the first download of the abstracts, they were split up into the different topics, put into a logical order and proof read till our eyes were sore and our brains were numb!

For those who want to know how much reading this really is: the first ‘draft’ version of the abstract book comes to 392 pages, 137,921 words and holds abstracts from 26 different countries.

We finished the first proof reading all the abstracts this week and pressed the ‘send’ button with some trepidation! Luckily the files were received from the publishing company and are now safely in their hands for formatting.

It was all worth it in the end as the first proof read is now complete. All in all, we’ll proof read a total of three to four times over the next few months before the last abstract book is shipped to Orlando ready for symposium delegates.

This week we’ve also published the programme for the symposium which details all the talks that are going to be given at the symposium. Have a look and let us know which ones you think sound the most interesting!

Symposium update

The Programme Committee have now finalised the list of platform presentations for the 21st International Symposium on ALS/MND.

We are now in the process of informing the presenters of the decision of the abstracts they submitted to us for consideration… so far that means telling the authors of 382 abstracts of the decision that we have reached. Luckily we don’t email them all individually! Some will be delighted as they have been accepted for a platform slot where they have their ‘15 minutes of fame’ to talk about their research to a crowd of around 450 of their peers. We’ve already had  46 presenters confirm their slots and only 32 to go (discluding plenaries)!

For those less inclined to present their work at the platform, or those that we simply could not fit into the jam packed programme, we may offer them a poster presentation for their work. Posters are designated a space of 1m by 1m in size to present their work on a face-to-face level (rather than a face-to-crowd level).

There are also a handful of abstracts that will be rejected for the symposium. If the abstract describes research that has not been properly conducted, is misleading or does not fulfil the terms and conditions for acceptance of an abstract then it might be rejected. It’s a nasty job, but it has to be done.

Our work doesn’t end there for the symposium. Even though in a few weeks time we’ll know who will be presenting their work and as what, we then have the daunting, challenging yet somewhat rewarding task of proof reading ALL of the abstracts…