By Beth Germano

BOSTON (CBS) – It’s a challenge that became a sensation – buckets of ice water poured over the heads of the enthusiastic, all in the name of ALS research.

The Ice Bucket Challenge was inspired by Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball star suffering from ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Related: Ice Bucket Challenge Donations Helped Fund New ALS Gene Discovery

And now thanks to some $220 million raised, an important gene discovery has been made by a doctor at UMass Medical School.

“We’re so grateful for what everyone did because now it’s bearing fruit,” said Pete’s mother Nancy Frates.

Dr. John Landers is part of a team of researchers discovering a new gene in ALS patients that could lead to new therapies.

Dr. John Landers. (WBZ-TV)

Dr. John Landers. (WBZ-TV)

He received about $1 million through the Ice Bucket Challenge to join an international group of scientists still trying to find a cure.

He even took the challenge himself saying the campaign raised not only money, but also awareness.

“Before this I told people about ALS research and they looked at me like I was strange, they didn’t know what I was talking about. If I said Lou Gehrig’s Disease they were a little more familiar,” Dr. Landers told WBZ-TV. “The addition of a new gene brings us that much closer to understanding what is going wrong with patients.”

Nancy and John Frates helped spearhead the biggest medical fundraising campaign in history on behalf of their son.

Now the gene known as NEK1 is another piece of a complex puzzle.

“There’s a long way to go from a gene discovery to an actual treatment for people living with ALS today.  We implore everyone to stay with us,” said Nancy Frates.

It was more than two years ago that Dr. Landers wanted to become part of what’s known as Project Mine for ALS research but was told the funding wasn’t available.

The Ice Bucket Challenge changed everything.

“There’s no question whatsoever that if we didn’t have the financing this would not have happened,” said Dr. Landers.

It’s a mixed blessing for the Frates family since they say Pete is now in an advanced stage of the horrendous disease. But his simple idea is already achieving results.

“To me it’s like playing sports. You draw it up in a playbook, execute the plan and the plan has always been to raise awareness,” said John Frates.

Beth Germano

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