Neuronal Plasticity and Nerve Cell Protection in Disease
Prof. Illana Gozes, Ph.D.
Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemisty
Our research is characterized by a multi-level approach to the study of brain function, behavior, memory and drug discovery, from molecules to cures. Targeting autism, schizophrenia as well as Alzheimer’s disease and related neurodegeneration and utilizing a multidisciplinary approach, our group investigates different aspects of neuronal plasticity and nerve cell protection, at the molecular, cellular and system level.
A major focus in the laboratory is on nerve structure and transport mechanisms. We have discovered novel families of proteins associated with cross talk among nerve cells and their support cells, including activity-dependent neurotrophic factor (ADNF) and activity-dependent neuroprotetive proteins (ADNPs, with ADNP being a major gene mutated in autism). Small ADNF and ADNP derivatives are in clinical development. The lead compound, davunetide is planned for an advanced Phase II clinical trial with the biotech industry.
Davunetide has previously shown efficacy in several Phase II clinical trials (i.e. in patients suffering from mild cognitive impairment, preceding Alzheimer’s disease and in schizophrenia patients, protecting activities of daily living).