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Scientists Develop Potential New, Safer Drug for Treatment of Epilepsy and Other Central Nervous System Disorders

New and safer compounds for treatment of epilepsy patients and those suffering from other neural disorders have been developed by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem School of Pharmacy.

For their groundbreaking work, Professors Meir Bialer and Boris Yagen of the Department of Pharmaceutics and Medicinal Chemistry and Natural Products at the School of Pharmacy have been named among the winners of the Kaye Innovation Awards to be presented on June 13 at the 69th meeting of the Hebrew University Board of Governors.

Professors Bialer and Yagen have succeeded in developing a potential alternative for valproic acid (VPA), one of the leading antiepileptic drugs, which has been used as a central nervous system (CNS) treatment since 1967. However, that drug also has serious safety drawbacks, with side effects that can cause damage especially to children or women of child-brearing potential.

In their experimental search for an alternative to VPA, Professors Bialer and Yagen have developed propylisopropyl acetamide (PID), a new antiepileptic and CNS drug that has demonstrated excellent antiepileptic and antiallodynic (against neuropathic pain) activities, without the damaging side effects of VPA.

Patents for PID variations developed by the two scientists have been obtained by Yissum, the Hebrew University’s technology transfer company. In June 2005, Jazz Pharmaceuticals of Palo Alto, California, and The Epilepsy Therapy Development Project (TETDP) of Reston, Virginia, awarded a grant, through Yissum, to the Hebrew University researchers to do further evaluation work As an integral part of this grant, Jazz Pharmaceuticals signed a licensing agreement with Yissum for developing a new antiepileptic and CNS drug, based on the PID compounds developed at the university.

The potential commercial applications of these compounds are believed to be highly promising, providing a second-generation drug alternative for those currently unable to be treated with VPA.

The Kaye Innovation Awards have been given annually since 1994. Isaac Kaye of England, a prominent industrialist in the pharmaceutical industry, established the awards to encourage faculty, staff, and students of the Hebrew University to develop innovative methods and inventions with good commercial potential which will benefit the university and society.

Jerry Barach | The Hebrew University of Jerusal
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