Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis researcher Richard Olney dies of ALS

GlobalPost

Dr. Richard Olney, who spent 18 years searching for a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, has died of the disease himself at age 64.

The internationally renowned researcher worked out of the University of California, San Francisco for the better part of his 25 years, most of it dedicated to finding a cure for ALS, the Washington Post reported.

The neurodegenerative disease causes patients to gradually lose control of their muscles. Stephen Hawking is arguably its highest profile sufferer.

Olney was diagnosed with ALS in June 2004, and though he retired from the ALS research center he founded at UCSF in 1993 to tend to his own health, immediately became "one of the ALS community's most visible and important spokespersons," according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

He also became the first human subject in testing of a cancer drug that had showed promise in slowing the progress of ALS.

In keeping with study’s lifestyle guidelines, the Associated Press reported, Olney never sought to determine whether he was taking the drugs or a placebo.

“It was typical of Rick to put the value of the medical research before himself and not take the drugs outside the boundaries of the trial,” Dr. Catherine Lomen-Hoerth, who took over the ALS center, reportedly said. “He knew it was highly unlikely that a treatment would be found during his lifetime, but nothing was going to stop him from doing whatever he could to advance the research.”

Olney said in an interview with the Chronicle that the UCSF center was among his proudest accomplishments, along with his children because they have grown up to be "loving, compassionate people who I think are going to be very productive members of society."

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