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Southern Research Institute's Neurodegenerative Disease Drug Discovery Program Receives National Institute of Mental Health Funding
Date:10/1/2007

Team will develop "probes" to aid in the search for new Alzheimer's drugs

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Oct. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Southern Research Institute --- a not-for-profit organization that conducts basic and applied research in the areas of preclinical drug discovery and drug development -- today announced it has received funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to identify small molecules that activate Nuclear Factor-kB (NF-kB)--a transcription factor which could lead to the development of novel treatments of Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Under the direction of Maurizio Grimaldi, M.D., Ph.D., Leader of the Neuropharmacology Laboratory, Department of Biochemistry, Drug Discovery Division at Southern Research, scientists will execute a drug discovery program utilizing a novel approach based on an original assay developed at Southern Research and high-throughput screening (HTS) technologies. There are several indications that the NF-kB signaling system plays a role in neuronal resilience and in the changes induced by cellular learning such as long term potentiation and depression. Several reports have shown that knocking out NF-kB activity in the brain causes sensitization to toxic stimuli, such as beta-amyloid, excitatory amino acids, and trauma. In addition, activation of NF-kB is a known anti-apoptosis mechanism.

"The global population is aging and the percentage of adults suffering from neurodegenerative diseases is increasing at alarming pace. There is an urgent need for effective therapeutics and methods to protect the brain. There is utility in investigating the possibility that NF-kB up regulation could be of value in mitigating both neurodegenerative phenomenon and learning and memory failure, a unique possibility, to attack the main clinical manifestations of Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Grimaldi . "Southern Research's drug discovery program is a step towards identifying novel techniques, tools and, eventually, safe and effective treatment agents for these difficult-to-treat and debilitating neurodegenerative diseases."

Funding will be provided by National Institute of Mental Health. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke donated the 108,000 compound collection which was selected by Southern Research medicinal chemists for the Institute high throughput screening program in neurodegenerative disorders. This project is also part of the NIH's Molecular Libraries Roadmap Initiative - an effort to broaden access to high throughput robotic assay technologies and facilitate the creation of a public database of small molecules and their biological effects. Southern Research participates in the Roadmap Initiative as a member of the Molecular Libraries Screening Centers Network (MLSCN). NIH's funding of MLSCN supports a research network that uses robotic HTS methods to identify small molecule probes as tools for drug discovery, and has helped enable Southern Research to incorporate the most advanced HTS and imaging technologies into its laboratories that are integral to drug discovery.

About Southern Research

Southern Research Institute is an independent 501-(c)-3, not-for-profit center for scientific research. Founded in 1941, Southern Research is known for innovative leadership in major scientific discoveries in drug discovery and development, aerospace and materials engineering, and environment and energy research. Public and private sector clients include the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Departments of Justice, Defense, Energy, Environmental Protection Agency and NASA, as well as major private companies in pharmaceutical, biotechnology, energy, manufacturing and more. For more information visit http://www.southernresearch.org.

CONTACT: Rhonda Jung of Southern Research Institute, +1-205-581-2317, Jung@southernresearch.org and Risa Burgess for Southern Research Institute, +1-205-581-2317, Southern@schwartz-pr.com


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