Temple Scientist Awarded $500K Grant to Advance Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery

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by Mary Chapman |

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A Temple University researcher has been awarded a $500,000 two-year grant to develop a treatment that targets chronic brain inflammation and other disease characteristics in Alzheimer’s.

Silvia Fossati, associate director of the Alzheimer’s Center at Temple Health’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine, will work with pharmaceutical sciences professor Marc Ilies to produce an Alzheimer’s-specific iteration of an existing, federally approved therapeutic class called carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, primarily used to treat glaucoma, high-altitude sickness, and epileptic seizures.

Using cell and animal models, Fossati and her team have already demonstrated the effectiveness of these medicines in targeting specific Alzheimer’s features, including beta-amyloid accumulation, inflammation, and mitochondrial dysfunction.

“Since carbonic anhydrase inhibitors have already been approved by the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] and have demonstrated promising results, we are hopeful that we will be able to tailor what is currently available on the market to specifically target Alzheimer’s disease,” said Fossati, also an associate professor of pharmacology, in a press release. “We are so thankful that the foundation sees such promise in our work and has chosen to recognize us with this grant.”

Studies have suggested that chronic brain inflammation may be caused in part by the build-up of proteins called beta-amyloid, formed by the breakdown of larger protein molecules. Instead of being cleared — as they are in a normal brain — these proteins accumulate to abnormal levels, causing a toxic effect. Excessive amyloid levels may also contribute to blood vessel damage in the brain and abnormalities of the mitochondria, the energy producers in cells. Together, such factors can ultimately lead to cognitive dysfunction.

The hope is that the new therapeutic candidate, which would first be tested in cell and animal models, will be ready for human clinical trials in two to three years. Ideally, the candidate would target Alzheimer’s characteristics — as current inhibitors do — but would more effectively penetrate the brain, and with fewer adverse effects.

An estimated 44 million individuals globally live with Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia. In the United States, about 5.5 million residents have the disorder.

The grant is from the Edward N. and Della L. Thome Memorial Foundation, as part of its Awards Program in Alzheimer’s Disease Drug Discovery Research.