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Israeli drug that slowed Alzheimer’s, ALS in mice gets funding to start trials

Molecules ‘amazing’ in delaying onset and progression of the conditions in mice, says researcher; if they’re 10% as effective in humans they’ll become a ‘very good drug’

Nathan Jeffay is The Times of Israel's health and science correspondent

One of the best-known people to suffer from ALS was the late Professor Stephen Hawking. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)
One of the best-known people to suffer from ALS was the late Professor Stephen Hawking. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

Israeli-designed molecules that slowed Alzheimer’s and another degenerative disease in mice are to begin the approval process to become a drug for humans, scientists have announced.

The molecules have shown “amazing” effect in delaying the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in mice. ALS, which famously afflicted Stephen Hawking and was the subject of the Ice Bucket Challenge, has no approved drug treatment.

Prof. Esther Priel and her colleagues at Ben Gurion University of the Negev have been working for years on the molecules and have published peer-reviewed research on their effectiveness in mice.

They formed a company, Neuromagen Pharma, but did not have the funds to start the pre-clinical trials needed to prepare for human trials.

Now, an Israeli funder has come up with the multi-million-dollar investment needed to move the process forward, Priel told The Times of Israel. “This investment will allow us to push this to clinical trials, which was something we couldn’t do until now as pre-clinical trials for FDA approval cost a lot of money,” she said.

“It’s very positive, and if we’re able to see in humans just 10% of the effect we saw in mice, we will have a very good drug.”

Ron Prosor, then Israel’s ambassador to the UN, is doused with ice water as part of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, in a video released Tuesday, August 19, 2014 (screen capture: YouTube)

She declined to identify the funder or quantify the investment, beyond saying it is a few million dollars.

Priel emphasized that the drug is not expected to be a cure, but rather to “delay the onset and progression of the diseases, and improve the quality of life.”

Gil Ben-Menachem, founder and chief executive officer of Neuromagen, said, “We are excited to secure this substantial funding, which will enable us to jumpstart the company and initiate the preclinical work toward developing our promising drug candidates.

“Currently there are no drugs available to treat ALS, so our drug candidate presents a new treatment paradigm and could be both first and best-in-class,” he said.

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