Scientists Receive NIH Funding to Move Novel Therapy Targets Forward

Discovery Researchers Identify Novel Therapy Targets

APRIL 2014 – A major goal of discovery research is to identify novel therapeutic targets for treating human diseases.  Lead by Dr. Robert Keane of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics with colleagues in The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, a new $1.6 million dollar small business award from NINDS entitled “Therapeutic Neutralization of the Inflammasome after Spinal Cord Injury” has been received to test a new anti-inflammatory antibody treatment for the devastating consequences of human spinal cord injury (SCI).

Drs. Keane, Juan de Rivero Vaccari, Helen Bramlett and W. Dalton Dietrich are co-inventors of a new treatment therapy targeting the innate immune response to injury. A US Patient was awarded on December 3, 2013 entitled “Modulating Inflammasome activity and inflammation in the Central Nervous System”. Based on this discovery, which has been shown to be effective in several experimental neurological conditions including stroke, traumatic brain injury and SCI, the limited liability company InflamaCORE was formed in 2009.

The company, headquartered at the UMMSM, focuses its research on early inflammatory events corresponding to the innate immune response believed to represent a clinically relevant secondary insult.  “This critical funding from NIH will allow for the humanization of the antibody and subsequent testing in a translational model of SCI” stated Dr. Keane.

This is the first funded Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program application from the University of Miami. Based on the safety and toxicity findings obtained with the humanized antibody, an IND application to the FDA will be submitted for permission to test this novel neuroprotective therapy in people. This overall approach is novel in that it targets inflammasome activation in brain cells and reduces the production or potentially toxic factors that can lead to secondary cell death and prolonged functional deficits.  Because there are no current FDA approved therapies to treat SCI, this new therapeutic approach may hold great promise for the thousands of individuals that sustain a SCI each year.