Highlights from Neuroscience 2009

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.

Amy Swinderman
CHICAGO—More than 30,000 members of the Society forNeuroscience (SfN) descended on the Windy City to attend the Neuroscience 2009event, held Oct. 17 to 21 at Chicago's McCormick Place South.
 
 
The annual meeting preceded SfN's 40thanniversary, a milestone marked by the society's announcement that it hasreached 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 asposters in the exhibit hall.
 
 
Research highlights from the show included studies showingthe benefits of exercise on both the brain and body, and more specifically,underscoring the positive influence of regular physical activity on Parkinson'sdisease, depression, premenstrual syndrome and memory; new tools that areenabling researchers to identify neural similarities and differences betweenspecies; new insights into male behavior support the idea that many genderdifferences 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 vesselsthat prevents more than 95 percent of all chemicals from entering the brainfrom the bloodstream.
 
 
Founded in 1969, SfN is the world's largest organization ofscientists and physicians dedicated to understanding the brain, spinal cord andnervous system.



Company announcements
 
 
Report: San Francisco/Bay Area, Boston lead world incommercial neuroscience
 
 
A study published by neurotechnologymarket research firm NeuroInsights and non-profit trade association theNeurotechnology Industry Organization finds that nine metropolitan regionsaround the world are leading the way in innovating treatments for the largestunmet medical market, brain-related illness. The report was released shortlybefore 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 LosAngeles/Irvine, according to the study, "Neurotech Clusters 2010: Mapping theBusiness of Neuroscience." Other areas topping the list were Baltimore, GreaterPhiladelphia and Minneapolis.
 
 
Other regions supporting neurotech innovation includenascent clusters such as Montreal; Basel/Zurich, Switzerland; Tel Aviv, Israel;Seattle; Stockholm, Sweden; and Tokyo. Regions to watch, according to thereport, are Munich, Germany; New Haven, Conn.; Chicago; Shanghai, China;Cleveland, Ohio; and Raleigh/Durham, N.C.
 
 
The study is available online atwww.neurotechindustry.org/neurotechclusters2010.html andwww.neuroinsights.com/neurotechclusters2010.html.
 
 
 
 
Sigma-Aldrich launches program that gives researchersknockout rats and mice produced in less than five months
 
 
Sigma-Aldrich announced the launch of SAGEspeed, a programto develop human disease models in rodents using its proprietary novel CompoZrZinc Finger Nuclease (ZFN) gene editing technology. This program will provideresearchers access to custom creation services for developing genetically-engineeredknockout rodent animal models for use in research and the development oftherapeutic treatments in as little as four to five months.
 
 
The technology and methodology employed by SAGEspeed reducesthe cycle time that it takes to create knockout mouse models using conventionalembryo stem cell-based technologies by around two-thirds. Additionally,SAGEspeed can also create targeted knockout rats, which was previously notpossible.
 
 
The SAGEspeed program is now available. Further informationon the program, as well as details of how to submit a custom model request, canbe accessed online at www.sageresearchmodels.com.


 
 
Clinical trial results
 
Angiochem's ANG1005 demonstrates safety and efficacy inPhase I/II brain cancer studies
 
 
Angiochem Inc. announced that its lead drug candidate,ANG1005, has demonstrated a favorable safety and efficacy profile in more than100 patients with brain cancer from two separate Phase I/II clinical studies inpatients with progressive gliomas, including recurrent glioblastoma, and inpatients with progressive brain metastases.
 
 
ANG1005 is a novel, next-generation taxane derivative,targeting the LRP pathway to cross the blood-brain barrier and reachtherapeutic concentrations in the brain.
In the recently completed Phase I/II brain metastasesclinical trial, more than 70 percent of patients receiving therapeutic dosesexperienced disease control (stable disease or better), with more than half ofthem showing clear reduction in tumor size.
 
Furthermore, 78 percent of patientswith taxane resistant tumors showed responses, indicating ANG1005 has thepotential to be effective against resistant tumors.
 
Of significance, Angiochem said, is that therapeutic dosesof ANG1005 were present in patient brain tumor samples, indicating that thedrug successfully crosses the blood-brain barrier and concentrates in thetumor, without showing central nervous system (CNS) toxicity or immunogenicity.Similar trends in patient responses have been observed to-date in the ongoing PhaseI/II recurrent glioblastoma clinical trial, with approximately 65 percent ofpatients experiencing disease control.
 
 
 
 
KAI reports positive preclinical results in paintherapeutic program targeting gamma protein kinase C pathway
 
 
KAI Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced positive preclinicalresults from its program targeting the gamma protein kinase C (PKC) pathway forthe development of novel therapies for pain. This program, which is thecompany's second in the pain area, is advancing towards IND-enabling studiesbased on preclinical data presented in a poster at Neuroscience 2009.
 
 
KAI's most advanced pain program is focused on KAI-1678, afirst-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 atthe University of South Carolina School of Medicine, demonstrate that aselective, intracellular peptide-based gamma PKC inhibitor is effective inreversing allodynia, a primary component of neuropathic pain. The jointresearch team also determined that the gamma PKC inhibitor acts specifically ona part of the central nervous system (the dorsal horn of the spinal cord) thatis involved in how individuals process pain.
 
 
 
StemCells Inc.'s neural stem cells show promise fortreating age-related macular degeneration
 
 
StemCells Inc. announced new preclinical data showing thatits human neural stem cells protect cone photoreceptors (cones) in the eye fromprogressive degeneration and preserve visual function long term. Cones arelight-sensing cells that are highly concentrated within the macula of the humaneye, and the ability to protect these cells suggests a promising approach totreating age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of visionloss and blindness in people over the age of 55.
 
 
This study, which was conducted in collaboration withresearchers from the Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health & ScienceUniversity, focused on assessing photoreceptor survival and vision preservationfollowing transplantation of StemCells' human neural stem cells. Results of thestudy demonstrate that, when transplanted into the eye of the Royal College ofSurgeons rat, a well-established animal model of retinal degeneration, theneural stem cells preserve visual function as measured by two separate visualtests, and exhibit robust, long-term protection of both rod and conephotoreceptors.
 
 
StemCells is pursuing additional preclinical studies of itsneural stem cells in the hope of one day achieving a breakthrough in treatingAMD. The company is currently developing its human neural stem cells as apotential therapeutic product, HuCNS-SC cells, for multiple degenerativedisorders of the central nervous system.
 
 
 
Targacept presents data from Phase IIb trial of TC-5214as augmentation treatment for major depressive disorder
 
At a satellite meeting of the show, Targacept Inc. announcedthe presentation of data from its recently completed Phase IIb clinical trialof TC-5214 as an augmentation treatment in subjects with major depressivedisorder (MDD), who did not respond adequately to first-line treatment with therepresentative 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 primaryoutcome measure, the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression-17, or HAM-D, and allof the secondary outcome measures, with high statistical significance.
 
 
The magnitude of clinical response (change from double-blindbaseline after eight weeks) on HAM-D was 6 points greater for the add-onTC-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 significantresults (p < 0.0001) were also achieved on an intent-to-treat basis on allof the trial's secondary outcome measures, including the Montgomery-AsbergDepression Rating Scale (MADRS), the Quick Inventory of DepressiveSymptomatology-Self Reporting scale, and assessments of irritability,disability, cognition, severity of illness and global improvement. Aspreviously reported, TC-5214 exhibited a favorable tolerability profile in thetrial.
 
 


New product announcements
 
PerkinElmer expands industry's largest biochemicalprotein kinase assay portfolio to 310 assays; launches expanded EnSpireMultilabel Plate Reader platform
 
PerkinElmer Inc. announced that it has expanded theindustry's largest reagent product portfolio for the detection and analysis ofprotein kinase activity to 310 assays.
 
The seven new LANCE Ultra assay products—three substratesand four detection antibodies—further increase PerkinElmer's leading positionin protein kinase research offerings. This enables researchers to address awide range of therapeutic targets including cancer, central nervous systemdisorders, cardiac dysfunction and metabolic diseases. All LANCE Ultra assayproducts are validated against commercially available protein kinases, givingresearchers peace-of-mind that their assays will produce accurate andreproducible results. LANCE Ultra utilizes PerkinElmer's proprietary ULightemission dye, for high efficiency and excellent signal-to-noise ratios. LANCEUltra is optimized for use in high-throughput and ultra high-throughputscreening applications for detection and analysis of protein kinase activityfor research purposes.
 
PerkinElmer also announced the launch the latest expansionof its EnSpire Multilabel Plate Reader platform with ultra-sensitiveluminescence detection. This new detection capability provides scientists,including those working with primary or stem cells in cancer andneuropharmacology research, with enhanced capabilities to improve assayperformance and sensitivity.
 
With the addition of ultra-sensitive luminescence, theconfigurable EnSpire platform now offers the following key detection technologychoices to address customer needs: Quad-monochromator; fluorescence intensity;absorbance; alpha-technology; ultra-sensitive luminescence; and optionaltemperature control and bottom-reading fluorescence intensity.
 
 
The EnSpire platform features a configurable plate readerthat delivers high-performance detection and easy-to-use software. Theaffordable platform is adaptable for use in laboratories of many sizes withdiverse research applications. This module expansion adds ultra sensitiveluminescence detection, temperature control and fluorescence intensitybottom-reading capabilities for both 96- and 384-well formats. Scientistsworking with limited numbers of cells can now generate enhanced assay signals,leading to improved assay performance and precision.
 
 
 
 
Enzo Biochem unveils comprehensive menu of epigeneticstools
 
 
Enzo Biochem Inc.'s Life Sciences subsidiary announced thatit will release a new catalog dealing with epigenetics and chromatinmodification. 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 methylationand telomerases. Enzo Life Sciences will also introduce new enzyme drugdiscovery kits for histone deacetylases (HDACs) and lysine-specific demethylase1 (LSD1), emerging targets for cancer and other diseases.
 
 
Histone deacetylases (HDACs) are enzymes that remove acetylgroups from lysines of histones and other non-histone proteins, and figureprominently in chromatin modifications that lead to changes in gene expression.The Fluor de Lys-Green HDAC assay is a new and improved product for assayingHDAC activity from cell extracts or purified enzymes. The proprietary newfluorescent probe in the kit contains a longer wavelength excitation/emissionprofile than the standard Fluor de Lys substrate, avoiding potentialinterference from the autofluorescence of cell constituents and small moleculecompounds. The convenient, two-step homogeneous procedure for measuring HDACactivity provided by the kit is applicable to high throughput screening ofpotential HDAC inhibitors.
 
Lysine-specific Demethylase 1 (LSD1) catalyzes demethylationof mono- and dimethylated lysines in histones, p53 and DNMT1. There isincreasing evidence of LSD1's importance in epigenetic and transcriptionalregulation and of its roles in processes ranging from embryogenesis tocarcinogenesis. The LSD1 fluorometric drug discovery kit provides a convenientassay of LSD1 activity and for screening of LSD1 inhibitors. The assay couplesoxidative demethylation of a peptide substrate with peroxidation of Enzo'sCELLestialTM Red Substrate to produce a red fluorescent signal that can bemonitored 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.

Amy Swinderman

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