• 6/13

Two FAU professors said they hope their recently discovered compound could lead to new treatments for brain diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.

Salvatore Lepore, Ph.D., department of chemistry and biochemistry, and Ken Dawson-Scully, Ph.D., biological sciences, both in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, and both fellows of FAU’s Institute for Human Health and Disease Intervention, are named inventors on the patent, along with members from both of their research teams.

This work is funded by their collaborative $440,000 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant where Lepore serves as the principal investigator (PI) and Dawson-Scully as the co-PI. Dawson-Scully is also an associate vice-president for strategic initiatives in the Division of Academic Affairs.

What is the Invention?

Powering the brain requires a substantial amount of oxygen — about 20 percent of total oxygen the body needs to fuel itself. These brain cells use oxygen to perform intense metabolic activities that generate free radicals, which in turn, help support brain cell growth and cognitive abilities. But, when the body produces too many free radicals (a condition known as oxidative stress), damage occurs to the brain, resulting in diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Lepore and Dawson-Scully have created a unique compound to protect the brain against this effect, potentially slowing down the progression of diseases related to oxidative stress.

“It’s not a cure,” Lepore said. “We don’t think the compound attacks the disease. It just offsets it.”

Lepore said he hopes a patient could take a small dose over time to treat the disease. “Someone who has high blood pressure will take a dose of high blood pressure medication, it doesn’t cure the disease, but it helps the patient live with it,” Lepore said.

The two teams collaborated to create compounds, with unique structures using chemical reactions pioneered by Lepore and his team over nearly a decade. “He (Lepore) is the brilliant chemist who actually created the molecule,” Dawson-Scully said.

In collaboration with Dawson-Scully, an internationally recognized neurobiologist, these novel compounds have been tested on cells in non-human brain tissue models. “That was the breakthrough,” Lepore said. “These compounds almost serendipitously exerted this protective ability, and they do so in extremely small amounts.”

Now that Lepore and Dawson-Scully have secured patent protection for their breakthrough, they will seek industrial partnership to help take the project into a more advanced stage of drug development. Part of their strategy will be to broaden their group of collaborators, including teams from industry, taking and FAU Tech Runway and the Research Park at FAU, “in hopes of improving medical outcomes,” Dawson-Scully said. ◆