The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has recognized the groundbreaking research of Melvin Reichman, PhD, a principal investigator at the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR) by awarding him grant funding for his work on potential treatments for synucleinopathies, a family of neurodegenerative disorders that includes Parkinson’s disease and certain forms of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
The three most common neurodegenerative diseases — Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) — are all classified as protein-misfolding disorders. Misfolded proteins usually are repaired or discarded naturally by the body. But in patients with mutations in the alpha-synuclein gene (< 20% of cases), or spontaneously for unknown reasons, alpha-synuclein can misfold and then aggregate into clumps that accumulate over decades as Lewy bodies, which are believed to cause debilitating cognitive and motor disorders.
In outlining his approach and goals for his research, Dr. Reichman, who also serves as director of the LIMR Chemical Genomics Center, said: “An overarching challenge in medical neuroscience research is determining why alpha-synuclein and other brain proteins aggregate, and how protein aggregation causes neurotoxicity. We have developed an ultra-high throughput screening technology that is very sensitive to test mixtures of pharmaceuticals and bioactive natural products, including nutraceuticals, to find unexpected combinations that synergistically prevent the aggregation of alpha-synuclein.”
The research team, which includes key collaborators at the University of Florida, is aiming to deliver a promising new lead candidate or novel combination of approved drugs and/or nutraceuticals for treating Parkinson’s disease.
“The advantage of our new combinatorial screening technology is that it can potentially deliver combination drugs as clinical candidates having greater efficacy than single agents to prevent further protein misfolding, aggregation and, hopefully, ameliorate disease progression,” said Dr. Reichman. “Moreover, a combination of approved drugs or nutraceuticals can proceed to clinical trials faster than a brand-new chemical entity. At a minimum, the research will advance understanding of alpha-synuclein aggregation at the molecular level.”
Before joining LIMR, Dr. Reichman spent 20 years in industry, serving as a director of drug discovery at several major pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.