The name of the guest speaker at Emoryâ€™s Office of Technology Transferâ€™s annual celebration on March 7 provoked some double takes around campus last week.
Todd B. Sherer, PhD, CEO of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinsonâ€™s Research (MJFF), described how the Fox Foundation is trying to build bridges between the worlds of basic and clinical research to speed development of new drugs for the treatment of Parkinsonâ€™s disease, and offered a ray ban outlet perspective on how independent research funders can help move drug candidates from the lab to the clinic and closer to market.
Sherer, a former postdoctoral fellow at Emory, also has the same first and last name (but not middle initial!) as OTTâ€™s director. Sherer â€“ the one who works for the Fox Foundation â€“ joined that non-profit charityâ€™s staff in 2004. While at Emory, he worked on models for Parkinsonâ€™s based on exposure to the pesticide rotenone, alongside Ranjita Betarbet, Gary Miller and J. Timothy Greenamyre, who himself moved on to the University of Pittsburgh in 2005.
In his talk Thursday, Sherer cited three areas of recent progress that all have links to Emory:
1. MJFF has been shepherding a potential drug target, the glutamate receptor mGluR5. Researchers from Lund University in Sweden, supported by MJFF, were first to show that mGluR5 blockers can prevent dyskinesia in pre-clinical models, and these compounds have now entered clinical trials, also supported by MJFF, sponsored by Swiss biotech Addex Pharmaceuticals.
At the same time, compounds that block mGluR5 are under ray ban baratas investigation for their ability to correct the problems with synaptic function seen in patients with fragile X syndrome, and Emory genetics chair Steve Warren was recognized for progress in this area Thursday.
2. Jeff Conn of Vanderbilt, formerly a faculty member in Emoryâ€™s Department of Pharmacology from 1988 to 2000, has worked with MJFF dating back to 2004 on the development of blockers for another glutamate receptor, mGluR4. In 2013, Conn announced a major partnership between Vanderbilt and Bristol-Myers Squibb to further develop these compounds.
3. MJFF has provided funding for a Parkinsonâ€™s gene therapy clinical trial being conducted by the firm Ceregene. Â Emory is one of the sites participating in the clinical trial.
Emory researchers who have received grants from MJFF include:
Malu Tansey, Nick Seyfried, Zixu Mao, Stephen Traynelis, Jim Greene, Thomas Wichmann and Jeremy Boss.