Biotech and Pharma

The Ice Bucket Challenge is back

Did you dump a bucket of ice water over your head last year, and then donate to support research on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease?

So did about 2.5 million other people, raising $115 million for the ALS Association—almost double the group's total annual budget.

Microsoft executives Satya Nadella and Terry Myerson take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Source: Microsoft | YouTube

This year, the Ice Bucket Challenge, which involves daring friends via social media to dump ice water on their heads or donate money to ALS research, has returned, though not quite on the same scale. So far in 2015, through Tuesday, the ALS Association has received more than $500,000 from the challenge specifically, according to spokeswoman Carrie Munk.

"I don't think anyone expected fundraising to be near where it was last year," Munk said. "But people are taking the challenge again this August and embracing the idea that we have to do it every August until there's a cure."

Among famous people taking the challenge this year: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Justin Bieber, Renee Zellweger (who made hers drought-conscious) and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. In perhaps the ultimate mark of legitimacy, Donald Trump pooh-poohed it, though he took the challenge last year.

CNBC's Scott Wapner, Becky Quick and Jim Cramer take the Ice Bucket Challenge in support of ALS research.
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And though some analyses have shown only a fraction of participants planned to take the challenge again, most importantly, the money already raised has started to pay off, ALS researchers say.

The ALS Association this month heralded work done by scientists at Johns Hopkins University. Published in the journal Science, the research details a better understanding of a protein important in Lou Gehrig's disease.

Just six months after the challenge, the association said it had received triple the number of applications for grants for young scientists than in previous years, suggesting a revitalization of research into the area.

The ALS community is counting on the support: Lou Gehrig's disease affects about 12,000 people in the U.S., according to the National Institutes of Health. It's a progressive neurological disorder in which the muscles fail over time, and life expectancy is typically three to five years. There's only one approved drug for ALS, whose efficacy is limited.

The ALS Association has adopted the hashtag #EveryAugustUntilACure to promote this year's effort.