October 7, 2019

Purdue Institute for Drug Discovery partners with Indiana University to launch $36 million center to develop treatments for Alzheimer’s disease

The Purdue Institute for Drug Discovery is partnering with Indiana University School of Medicine to launch a drug discovery center to accelerate the development of promising treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. The center will be created from a $36 million grant awarded to the Indiana University School of Medicine from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, and will be split evenly between the two universities.

The IUSM-PIDD collaboration is one of only two such multi-institution teams in the nation selected as part of this new federal program intended to "improve, diversify and reinvigorate the Alzheimer's disease drug development pipeline," according to the NIA.

"The new NIH-funded Alzheimer's Disease Drug Discovery Center represents a great example of IU and Purdue, two world-renowned institutions in Indiana, working together to combat a debilitating human condition by leveraging our respective expertise and track record in Alzheimer's disease research and drug discovery," said Zhong-Yin Zhang, director of the Purdue Institute for Drug Discovery. “Alzheimer’s disease is a major cause of death and disability, and there is clearly an enormous need for effective treatments.”

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia in the aging population, affecting an estimated 5.5 million Americans, about 110,000 of whom live in Indiana. The national number is projected to rise as high as 14 million by 2050 and there are currently no treatments to prevent or slow progression of the disease.

The center will initially focus on proteins, or targets, related to the brain's immune system that may contribute to Alzheimer's disease. They will be culled from an extensive list of potential targets nominated by researchers at elite medical institutions across the nation as part of the NIA-led Accelerating Medicines Partnership on Alzheimer's Disease program.  

The center will be comprised of four research and an administrative core.  The structural biology and biophysics research core within the center will be led at Purdue by Andrew Mesecar, professor and department head of biochemistry.  Using expertise and infrastructure, including the macromolecular crystallization facility and cryo-EM facility, this core will determine the structure of protein targets important in Alzheimer’s disease and utilize computer-aided drug design to develop new small molecule drugs effective against these targets.

The assay development and high-throughput screening (HTS) research core will also be led at Purdue by Zhang. Utilizing a recently constructed state-of-the-art HTS chemical genomics screening facility that contains one of the largest compound libraries of any academic institution within the U.S., this research core will perform screening to identify small molecule drugs and test all center-derived compounds on in vitro models of Alzheimer’s disease.

The medicinal chemistry and chemical biology research core, led by Alan Palkowitz, senior research professor of medicine at IUSM, will be split with PIDD housing the medicinal chemistry component, overseen by Karson S. Putt, managing director of PIDD.  The medicinal chemistry component will house organic, synthetic, and medicinal chemists who will optimize the structure of drugs identified from the other center research cores.  This optimization will seek to increase the drugs’ efficacy while simultaneously decreasing the side-effect inducing off-target binding. 

All data, methods, and tools generated by the center will be made available to other researchers from academia, nonprofit research organizations, biotech and the pharmaceutical industry for use in drug discovery and basic biology research.

The center will likely result in 15-20 jobs being added between IU and Purdue. The five-year grant began Sept. 30. It is funded through the NIA's Alzheimer Centers for Discovery of New Medicines program.

About Purdue Institute for Drug Discovery

Purdue University is home to substantial drug discovery and development talent within the Purdue Institute for Drug Discovery.  PIDD provides a collaborative platform that brings together biologists, chemists, pharmaceutical scientists, veterinary clinicians, and engineers in order to translate basic discoveries into new diagnostics and therapeutics that will directly impact patient care.  The resources and research facilities at Purdue and within PIDD, such as the High-Throughput Chemical Genomics Screening Facility, Macromolecular Crystallization Facility and cryo-EM Facility have allowed affiliated faculty to identify novel disease biology, discover & develop numerous drugs in a variety of disease areas, and launch >30 new startup companies.  In fact, Purdue currently has 73 drugs in its development pipeline with 16 drugs in human clinical trials.  Overall, Purdue faculty-discovered drugs have been tested in >280 clinical trials at >5000 trial sites impacting >50,000 trial participants world-wide.  Professor Andrew Mesecar commented that “When it comes to state-of-the-art research facilities in Structural Biology and Drug Discovery within an academic institution in the Midwest, Purdue is unmatched.”

About Indiana University School of Medicine

IU School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the U.S. and is annually ranked among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers high-quality medical education, access to leading medical research and rich campus life in nine Indiana cities, including rural and urban locations consistently recognized for livability.

About Purdue University

Purdue University, a top public research institution, offers higher education at its highest proven value. Committed to affordability, the University has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels. Committed to student success, Purdue is changing the student experience with greater focus on faculty-student interaction and creative use of technology. Committed to pursuing scientific discoveries and engineered solutions, Purdue has streamlined pathways for faculty and student innovators who have a vision for moving the world forward.

Source: Zhong-Yin Zhang, 765-494-1403, zhang-zy@purdue.edu

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