Investigators at Southern Methodist University and The University of Texas at Dallas have discovered a family of small molecules that shows promise in protecting brain cells against nerve-degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's, which afflict millions.
Dallas-based startup EncephRx, Inc. was granted the worldwide license to the jointly owned compounds. A biotechnology and therapeutics company, EncephRx will develop drug therapies based on the new class of compounds as a pharmaceutical for preventing nerve-cell damage, delaying onset of degenerative nerve disease and improving symptoms.
Treatments currently in use don't stop or reverse degenerative nerve diseases, but instead only alleviate symptoms, sometimes with severe side effects. If proved effective and nontoxic in humans, EncephRx's small-molecule pharmaceuticals would be the first therapeutic tools able to stop affected brain cells from dying.
"Our compounds protect against neurodegeneration in mice," said synthetic organic chemist Edward R. Biehl, the SMU Department of Chemistry professor who led development of the compounds at SMU. "Given successful development of the compounds into drug therapies, they would serve as an effective treatment for patients with degenerative brain diseases."
EncephRx initially will focus its development and testing efforts toward Huntington's disease and potentially will have medications ready for human trials in two years, said Aaron Heifetz, CEO at EncephRx.Compounds developed by SMU and UTD collaboration
"Additional research needs to be done, but these compounds have the potential for stopping or slowing the relentless loss of brain cells in diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's," said D'Mello, professor of molecular and cell biology at UT Dallas, with a joint appointment in the School of Brain and Behavioral Science. "The protective effect that they display in tissue culture and animal models of neurodegenerative disease provides strong evidence of their promise as drugs to treat neurodegenerative disorders."Millions are suffering, particularly the elderly
The diseases steadily erode motor skills, including speech and the ability to walk, cause tremors, slowed movement, stooped posture, memory loss and mood and behavior problems.
The risk of developing a degenerative nerve disease increases with age. These diseases affect more than 5 million Americans.Novel compounds effectively proved protective in initial studies
The most promising lead compound, designated HSB-13, was tested in Huntington's disease animal models. It not only reduced degeneration in a part of the forebrain but also improved behavioral performance while proving nontoxic. The compound also was efficacious in a commonly used fly model of Alzheimer's disease.
"These preliminary tests demonstrated that the compound was an extremely potent neuroprotective agent," Biehl said.
The findings were published in the article "Identification of novel 1,4-benzoxazine compounds that are protective in tissue culture and in vivo models of neurodegeneration," which appeared in the Journal of Neuroscience Research. The National Institutes of Health and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency funded the project.
The SMU and UT Dallas researchers developed and tested more than 100 compounds for neuroprotective efficacy and toxicity over the course of four years before making the discovery in 2007.Interinstitutional partnership with EncephRx
"While discovery of the compounds is a major accomplishment, many hurdles remain," Biehl said.
EncephRx is a university spinout formed to develop and commercialize the compounds. Its management team has proven success in all facets of drug development and has developed more than a dozen chemical compounds.
Aaron Heifetz, president and chief executive officer of EncephRx, Inc., said, "We believe this library of novel neuroprotective compounds will prove an important step in the effort to improve the health for patients with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Huntington's disease, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease."
Chris Jeffers, managing partner of FirstStage Bioventures, the parent company of EncephRx, added, "FirstStage is very excited about this technology and looks forward to helping EncephRx quickly move these compounds into the clinic."
SMU has an uplink facility on campus for live TV, radio or online interviews. To speak with Dr. Biehl or Dr. D'Mello or to book them in the SMU studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650 or UT Dallas Office of Media Relations at 972-883-4321.
SMU is a private university in Dallas where nearly 11,000 students benefit from the national opportunities and international reach of SMU's seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.
Margaret Allen | EurekAlert!
Speed data for the brain’s navigation system
06.12.2016 | Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen e.V. (DZNE)
Study suggests possible new target for treating and preventing Alzheimer's
02.12.2016 | Oregon Health & Science University
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
06.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
06.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
06.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering