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Highlights from Neuroscience 2009
10-26-2009
by Amy Swinderman  |  Email the author
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CHICAGO—More than 30,000 members of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) descended on the Windy City to attend the Neuroscience 2009 event, held Oct. 17 to 21 at Chicago's McCormick Place South.  
 
The annual meeting preceded SfN's 40th anniversary, a milestone marked by the society's announcement that it has reached a new high of more than 40,000 members.  
 
The exhibit hall was graced by 575 companies, organizations, suppliers and media outlets. More than 15,000 abstracts were presented as posters in the exhibit hall.  
 
Research highlights from the show included studies showing the benefits of exercise on both the brain and body, and more specifically, underscoring the positive influence of regular physical activity on Parkinson's disease, depression, premenstrual syndrome and memory; new tools that are enabling researchers to identify neural similarities and differences between species; new insights into male behavior support the idea that many gender differences lie in the brain and are influenced by both genes and environment; and novel ways to bypass the blood-brain barrier, a network of blood vessels that prevents more than 95 percent of all chemicals from entering the brain from the bloodstream.  
 
Founded in 1969, SfN is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians dedicated to understanding the brain, spinal cord and nervous system.



Company announcements  
 
Report: San Francisco/Bay Area, Boston lead world in commercial neuroscience  
 
A study published by neurotechnology market research firm NeuroInsights and non-profit trade association the Neurotechnology Industry Organization finds that nine metropolitan regions around the world are leading the way in innovating treatments for the largest unmet medical market, brain-related illness. The report was released shortly before the show.
 
The San Francisco/Bay Area and Greater Boston top the list, followed closely by New York/New Jersey, Greater London, San Diego and Los Angeles/Irvine, according to the study, "Neurotech Clusters 2010: Mapping the Business of Neuroscience." Other areas topping the list were Baltimore, Greater Philadelphia and Minneapolis.  
 
Other regions supporting neurotech innovation include nascent clusters such as Montreal; Basel/Zurich, Switzerland; Tel Aviv, Israel; Seattle; Stockholm, Sweden; and Tokyo. Regions to watch, according to the report, are Munich, Germany; New Haven, Conn.; Chicago; Shanghai, China; Cleveland, Ohio; and Raleigh/Durham, N.C.  
 
The study is available online at www.neurotechindustry.org/neurotechclusters2010.html and www.neuroinsights.com/neurotechclusters2010.html.    
 
 
Sigma-Aldrich launches program that gives researchers knockout rats and mice produced in less than five months  
 
Sigma-Aldrich announced the launch of SAGEspeed, a program to develop human disease models in rodents using its proprietary novel CompoZr Zinc Finger Nuclease (ZFN) gene editing technology. This program will provide researchers access to custom creation services for developing genetically-engineered knockout rodent animal models for use in research and the development of therapeutic treatments in as little as four to five months.  
 
The technology and methodology employed by SAGEspeed reduces the cycle time that it takes to create knockout mouse models using conventional embryo stem cell-based technologies by around two-thirds. Additionally, SAGEspeed can also create targeted knockout rats, which was previously not possible.  
 
The SAGEspeed program is now available. Further information on the program, as well as details of how to submit a custom model request, can be accessed online at www.sageresearchmodels.com.


   
Clinical trial results
 
Angiochem's ANG1005 demonstrates safety and efficacy in Phase I/II brain cancer studies  
 
Angiochem Inc. announced that its lead drug candidate, ANG1005, has demonstrated a favorable safety and efficacy profile in more than 100 patients with brain cancer from two separate Phase I/II clinical studies in patients with progressive gliomas, including recurrent glioblastoma, and in patients with progressive brain metastases.  
 
ANG1005 is a novel, next-generation taxane derivative, targeting the LRP pathway to cross the blood-brain barrier and reach therapeutic concentrations in the brain.
In the recently completed Phase I/II brain metastases clinical trial, more than 70 percent of patients receiving therapeutic doses experienced disease control (stable disease or better), with more than half of them showing clear reduction in tumor size.
 
Furthermore, 78 percent of patients with taxane resistant tumors showed responses, indicating ANG1005 has the potential to be effective against resistant tumors.   Of significance, Angiochem said, is that therapeutic doses of ANG1005 were present in patient brain tumor samples, indicating that the drug successfully crosses the blood-brain barrier and concentrates in the tumor, without showing central nervous system (CNS) toxicity or immunogenicity. Similar trends in patient responses have been observed to-date in the ongoing Phase I/II recurrent glioblastoma clinical trial, with approximately 65 percent of patients experiencing disease control.    
 
 
KAI reports positive preclinical results in pain therapeutic program targeting gamma protein kinase C pathway  
 
KAI Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced positive preclinical results from its program targeting the gamma protein kinase C (PKC) pathway for the development of novel therapies for pain. This program, which is the company's second in the pain area, is advancing towards IND-enabling studies based on preclinical data presented in a poster at Neuroscience 2009.  
 
KAI's most advanced pain program is focused on KAI-1678, a first-in-class, isozyme-selective, small peptide inhibitor of epsilon PKC, which is currently enrolling patients in multiple Phase IIa clinical studies. Preclinical data, generated in studies undertaken with Dr. Sarah Sweitzer at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, demonstrate that a selective, intracellular peptide-based gamma PKC inhibitor is effective in reversing allodynia, a primary component of neuropathic pain. The joint research team also determined that the gamma PKC inhibitor acts specifically on a part of the central nervous system (the dorsal horn of the spinal cord) that is involved in how individuals process pain.  
 
 
StemCells Inc.'s neural stem cells show promise for treating age-related macular degeneration  
 
StemCells Inc. announced new preclinical data showing that its human neural stem cells protect cone photoreceptors (cones) in the eye from progressive degeneration and preserve visual function long term. Cones are light-sensing cells that are highly concentrated within the macula of the human eye, and the ability to protect these cells suggests a promising approach to treating age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in people over the age of 55.  
 
This study, which was conducted in collaboration with researchers from the Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health & Science University, focused on assessing photoreceptor survival and vision preservation following transplantation of StemCells' human neural stem cells. Results of the study demonstrate that, when transplanted into the eye of the Royal College of Surgeons rat, a well-established animal model of retinal degeneration, the neural stem cells preserve visual function as measured by two separate visual tests, and exhibit robust, long-term protection of both rod and cone photoreceptors.  
 
StemCells is pursuing additional preclinical studies of its neural stem cells in the hope of one day achieving a breakthrough in treating AMD. The company is currently developing its human neural stem cells as a potential therapeutic product, HuCNS-SC cells, for multiple degenerative disorders of the central nervous system.  
 
 
Targacept presents data from Phase IIb trial of TC-5214 as augmentation treatment for major depressive disorder
 
At a satellite meeting of the show, Targacept Inc. announced the presentation of data from its recently completed Phase IIb clinical trial of TC-5214 as an augmentation treatment in subjects with major depressive disorder (MDD), who did not respond adequately to first-line treatment with the representative SSRI citalopram hydrobromide.
 
In the trial, the add-on TC-5214 arm (TC-5214 + citalopram) outperformed the add-on placebo arm (placebo + citalopram) on the primary outcome measure, the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression-17, or HAM-D, and all of the secondary outcome measures, with high statistical significance.  
 
The magnitude of clinical response (change from double-blind baseline after eight weeks) on HAM-D was 6 points greater for the add-on TC-5214 arm (13.75-point improvement) than for the add-on placebo arm (7.75-point improvement). This result was highly statistically significant (p < 0.0001) on an intent-to-treat basis. Highly statistically significant results (p < 0.0001) were also achieved on an intent-to-treat basis on all of the trial's secondary outcome measures, including the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), the Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology-Self Reporting scale, and assessments of irritability, disability, cognition, severity of illness and global improvement. As previously reported, TC-5214 exhibited a favorable tolerability profile in the trial.  
 


New product announcements
 
PerkinElmer expands industry's largest biochemical protein kinase assay portfolio to 310 assays; launches expanded EnSpire Multilabel Plate Reader platform
 
PerkinElmer Inc. announced that it has expanded the industry's largest reagent product portfolio for the detection and analysis of protein kinase activity to 310 assays.
 
The seven new LANCE Ultra assay products—three substrates and four detection antibodies—further increase PerkinElmer's leading position in protein kinase research offerings. This enables researchers to address a wide range of therapeutic targets including cancer, central nervous system disorders, cardiac dysfunction and metabolic diseases. All LANCE Ultra assay products are validated against commercially available protein kinases, giving researchers peace-of-mind that their assays will produce accurate and reproducible results. LANCE Ultra utilizes PerkinElmer's proprietary ULight emission dye, for high efficiency and excellent signal-to-noise ratios. LANCE Ultra is optimized for use in high-throughput and ultra high-throughput screening applications for detection and analysis of protein kinase activity for research purposes.
 
PerkinElmer also announced the launch the latest expansion of its EnSpire Multilabel Plate Reader platform with ultra-sensitive luminescence detection. This new detection capability provides scientists, including those working with primary or stem cells in cancer and neuropharmacology research, with enhanced capabilities to improve assay performance and sensitivity.
 
With the addition of ultra-sensitive luminescence, the configurable EnSpire platform now offers the following key detection technology choices to address customer needs: Quad-monochromator; fluorescence intensity; absorbance; alpha-technology; ultra-sensitive luminescence; and optional temperature control and bottom-reading fluorescence intensity.  
 
The EnSpire platform features a configurable plate reader that delivers high-performance detection and easy-to-use software. The affordable platform is adaptable for use in laboratories of many sizes with diverse research applications. This module expansion adds ultra sensitive luminescence detection, temperature control and fluorescence intensity bottom-reading capabilities for both 96- and 384-well formats. Scientists working with limited numbers of cells can now generate enhanced assay signals, leading to improved assay performance and precision.    
 
 
Enzo Biochem unveils comprehensive menu of epigenetics tools  
 
Enzo Biochem Inc.'s Life Sciences subsidiary announced that it will release a new catalog dealing with epigenetics and chromatin modification. The catalog provides a portfolio of tools relating to histone- and DNA-modifying enzymes, including enzymes for lysine acetylation/deacetylation (HATs, HDACs and sirtuins), protein methylation/demethylation, DNA methylation and telomerases. Enzo Life Sciences will also introduce new enzyme drug discovery kits for histone deacetylases (HDACs) and lysine-specific demethylase 1 (LSD1), emerging targets for cancer and other diseases.  
 
Histone deacetylases (HDACs) are enzymes that remove acetyl groups from lysines of histones and other non-histone proteins, and figure prominently in chromatin modifications that lead to changes in gene expression. The Fluor de Lys-Green HDAC assay is a new and improved product for assaying HDAC activity from cell extracts or purified enzymes. The proprietary new fluorescent probe in the kit contains a longer wavelength excitation/emission profile than the standard Fluor de Lys substrate, avoiding potential interference from the autofluorescence of cell constituents and small molecule compounds. The convenient, two-step homogeneous procedure for measuring HDAC activity provided by the kit is applicable to high throughput screening of potential HDAC inhibitors.
 
Lysine-specific Demethylase 1 (LSD1) catalyzes demethylation of mono- and dimethylated lysines in histones, p53 and DNMT1. There is increasing evidence of LSD1's importance in epigenetic and transcriptional regulation and of its roles in processes ranging from embryogenesis to carcinogenesis. The LSD1 fluorometric drug discovery kit provides a convenient assay of LSD1 activity and for screening of LSD1 inhibitors. The assay couples oxidative demethylation of a peptide substrate with peroxidation of Enzo's CELLestialTM Red Substrate to produce a red fluorescent signal that can be monitored continuously at 590nm.  
 

 
Neuroscience 2010 preview  
 
Next year's show will be held Nov. 13 to 17 in San Diego. Venue information is not yet available.
 
Code: E10280902

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