Posted January 15, 2014

New international alliance could spur neuroscience discoveries

Temple has entered into a new international research alliance with strategic partners—including Penn Medicine, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and Israel Brain Technologies—to develop important neuroscientific discoveries for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. The new alliance also will play a key role in moving those discoveries from the laboratory to the marketplace.

The alliance was formed by Reps. Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania and Steve Israel of New York, leaders in Congress in the area of neuroscience and Alzheimer’s research. The alliance’s members signed an historic Memorandum of Understanding at a ceremony in Manhasset, N.Y., last month.

“The idea of this collaboration is to identify research that has the promise to deliver improved care to patients with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, as well as advance it towards the commercialization process,” said Michele Masucci, Temple’s interim senior vice provost for research, who represented the university at the signing. “Temple was selected to be a part of this partnership based on its strength in neuroscience and neuroAIDS research, so this is a nice acknowledgement of our expertise in this area.”

Masucci said the new alliance would provide collaborative opportunities, information and resources to neuroscience researchers at Temple, enhancing their ability to advance their work beyond the laboratory to have a beneficial impact on society.
Masucci said one of the key alliance members is Israel Brain Technologies, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to turn Israel into a global brain-technology and -research leader by supporting applied brain research, accelerating brain technology development, creating and  fostering a community around neurotechnology, and attracting key stakeholders to partner and support brain-related technology in Israel.

“They are willing to support, invest in and advance technologies related to neuroscience where there are scarce resources available in the U.S. right now,” she said.

Temple Professor of Biology Shohreh Amini, whose current research focuses on neuroAIDS and using natural compounds to inhibit HIV replication, said the alliance could assist her work by potentially providing a larger and more diverse pool of brain-tissue samples.

“There is really no good animal model for testing HIV in the brain, so to be able to get brain specimens from our prestigious international research partners will enhance our research abilities,” she said. “The more samples we have, the more opportunities we have to identify important surrogate markers for HIV-induced neurodegeneration. These studies also will provide insights into strategies for eradication of HIV-1 from the brain and will impact our understanding of other neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s.”

Participation in the new partnership will be universitywide, including the School of Medicine, the College of Health Professions and Social Work, the College of Science and Technology, the College of Liberal Arts, the College of Engineering and the School of Pharmacy, said Masucci.

“This is an international challenge that one organization or one country cannot solve on its own,” Fattah said. “Rather, it calls for global commitment, and most importantly, collaboration. Together, these leading institutions will build extraordinary teams of researchers and doctors dedicated to discovering new treatments and cures.”