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Health Scan: New drug reduces brain damage associated with Alzheimer's

Updated on April 28, 2008

Successful clinical trials of a new substance called AL-108, based on the research of Tel Aviv University clinical biochemist Dr. Illana Gozes, show it improves memory and learning in people with mild cognitive damage that is usually a predictor of Alzheimer's disease (AD).

Allon Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing treatments for major neurodegenerative conditions, is based in Vancouver and listed on the stock exchange. It was founded by Gozes, who is also its chief scientific officer. The drug has been found to reduce the physical brain damage associated with the pathological hallmarks of AD, which affects about 7.5 percent of people over 65 and a third of those over 85.

The active ingredient in AL-108 is a short protein called NAP that is part of a long protein dubbed ADNP. Gozes and colleagues discovered ADNP in the 1990s, but more recently discovered that it's responsible for monitoring about 400 different genes connected with differentiation of cells in general, and especially neurons, in the embryos. The TAU team's research showed that ADNP has a very important role in brain function, but since it's a very long protein, a drug could not be based on it.

"So we looked for a small section of it that could preserve the vitality of the neurons, and that's how we got to NAP," says Gozes. "We believe that this material can serve as a basis for a wide variety of drugs and limit damage to the brain." The research has appeared in a number of international journals such as the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Developmental Biology and the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Gozes is not only a founder of Allon Therapeutics and TAU, but she also directs the Adams Super Center for Brain Studies at the university, serves or has served as a member (or chairman) on several faculty/university/national and international committees, and is currently editor-in-chief of the Journal of Molecular Neuroscience



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