Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Upcoming Event: 06 October 2008, Stockholm

From the Nobel Prize website:

Announcement of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

The names of the year's Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine are announced during a press conference at the Nobel Forum, Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. The announcement is webcast live here at Nobelprize.org!

The 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine will be announced on Monday, October 6, 11:30 a.m. CET (at the earliest).

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Biotech: Link Medicine and Neurodegenerative Disorders

From a company press release:

September 30, 2008

Media Contact:
Greg Kelley, Feinstein Kean Healthcare
(+++) +++-++++

Link Medicine Completes $40 million Series C Financing to Accelerate Development of First Disease-Modifying Treatments for Neurodegenerative Disorders

Co-led by Clarus Ventures and SV Life Sciences,the Financing will Advance Preclinical and Clinical Programs

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Link Medicine Corporation, a privately held biotechnology company advancing novel approaches for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, announced today that it has obtained $40 million of Series C equity financing to help move its lead preclinical programs into human clinical testing. The round was funded by two leading biotechnology investors - Clarus Ventures and SV Life Sciences.

Link Medicine, founded in March 2005, is focused on developing the first disease-modifying therapies for the treatment of several neurodegenerative diseases - including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The company is pursuing innovative approaches to target a common feature of these disorders - the buildup in nerve cells of incorrectly folded, aggregated and ultimately neurotoxic proteins.

Link Medicine's development programs build on groundbreaking discoveries made in the laboratory of Link Medicine's Chief Scientific Officer Peter T. Lansbury, Jr., Ph.D., a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, and Director of the Morris K. Udall Research Center of Excellence in Parkinson's Disease at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. Lansbury is a leader in the scientific understanding of protein misfolding and aggregation in neurodegeneration.

"Despite advances in our understanding how these conditions progress, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease continue to exert a devastating toll on patients and their families," said Adam J. Rosenberg, Link Medicine's Chief Executive Officer. "Link Medicine was established to bring sharp focus to the most pressing need these patients face - for therapies not only designed to alleviate disease symptoms, but to modify the course of the disease. The strong backing of Clarus Ventures and SV Life Sciences both validates the progress we have made to date, and accelerates our path to the clinic."

Michael Ross, Managing Partner of SV Life Sciences, said: "The company's scientific platform is unique because of its potential applicability across a wide spectrum of conditions, including more prevalent conditions like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and a wide range of orphan indications where protein misfolding and aggregation play a critical role."

Nick Galakatos, Managing Director of Clarus Ventures added: "The approach taken by Link to modify the course of neurodegenerative disease is a novel way to tackle Alzheimer's disease and related disorders. It is particularly attractive because it can be potentially used as a monotherapy, or as a complementary combination with other medicines."

As of the closing of the Series C financing, the Link Medicine Board of Directors is comprised of the following members:

Nick Galakatos, Managing Director, Clarus Ventures
David Guyer, Venture Partner, SV Life Sciences
Peter Lansbury, Chief Scientific Officer
Adam Rosenberg, Chief Executive Officer
Michael Ross, Managing Partner, SV Life Sciences
Edward Scolnick, Director of Psychiatry Initiative at the Broad Institute


About Link Medicine

Link Medicine is advancing disease-modifying technologies targeted at Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases where current symptomatic therapies are limited in efficacy or duration, and at orphan indications which lack any meaningful symptomatic treatments. Link was founded by Chief Scientific Officer Peter T. Lansbury, Jr., a leading neuroscience researcher from Harvard Medical School and Brigham & Women's Hospital with a focus on protein misfolding and aggregation in neurodegeneration. The founding investment in Link was made by Edward I. Rudman, a prominent Boston-based business executive and philanthropist, who previously served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. Link has raised a total of $56.5 million in equity financings to date. Major investors include Clarus Ventures, SV Life Sciences, Endurance Investments Limited, Biogen Idec New Ventures, and private individuals. Link is based in Cambridge, MA.

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Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Cross-Cultural Distance Continuing Education for Physicians

Llambí L, Margolis A, Toews J, Dapueto J, Esteves E, Martínez E, Forster T, López A, & Lockyer J. Distance education for physicians: Adaptation of a Canadian experience to Uruguay. Journal of Continuing Education for Health Professionals. 2008 Spring; 28(2): 79-85.

EviMed, Montevideo, Uruguay.

INTRODUCTION: The production of online high-quality continuing professional development is a complex process that demands familiarity with effective program and content design. Collaboration and sharing across nations would appear to be a reasonable way to improve quality, increase access, and reduce costs. METHODS: In this case report, the process of adapting and modifying a course to improve the management of Alzheimer's disease developed for the Canadian context for use in Uruguay is described. RESULTS: Both quantitative and qualitative data on the process are shown. The original course was developed by the University of Calgary in the 1990s, and taught initially face to face and later online. The adaptation included using a distance education system developed and widely used in Uruguay, called eviDoctor. DISCUSSION: The key aspects of transforming this course from one country to another with different resources, health care systems, culture, and language are analyzed. Problems encountered are described, as well as their possible solutions.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Post-operative Pain, Cognition, and PCA Techniques

Benzion Beilin; Dan Hoofien; Ravit Poran; Inbal Gral; Galina Grinevich; Berta Butin; Eduard Mayburd; & Yehuda Shavit. Comparison of two patient-controlled analgesia techniques on neuropsychological functioning in the immediate postoperative period. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, Volume 30, Issue 6, August 2008, 674-682.

Pain may contribute to cognitive decline, which is a common complication in the early postoperative period. We compared the effects of two common pain management techniques, intravenous patient-controlled analgesia (PCA-IV) and patient-controlled epidural analgesia (PCEA), on cognitive functioning in the immediate postoperative period. Patients hospitalized for elective surgery were randomly assigned to one of the treatment groups (30 patients per group). A battery of objective, standardized neuropsychological tests was administered preoperatively and 24 hours after surgery. Pain intensity was also evaluated. Nonoperated volunteers served as controls. Patients of the PCA-IV group exhibited significantly higher pain scores than did patients of the PCEA group. PCA-IV patients exhibited significant deterioration in the postoperative period in all the neuropsychological measures, while the PCEA patients exhibited significant deterioration only in one cognitive index, compared to controls.

Keywords: Cognitive function; Local anaesthetics; Opiates; PCA-IV; PCEA; Postoperative pain

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Upcoming Event: NYC, 22-25 October 2008

The annual meeting of the National Academy of Neuropsychology (NAN) occurs next month in midtown Manhattan. Here is the conference's webpage: Link

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Brain Banks

From the CBC:

Brain banks: Crucial for research, clamouring for donors
Last Updated: Monday, September 22, 2008 | 7:56 AM ET
By Gloria Troyer
CBC News
Read the full article

[snip]

Brain banks. The work they do is not widely publicized — most people who consider signing donor cards think along the lines of organs such as the hearts and kidneys for transplant — but it's crucial for many researchers trying to understand the causes and characteristics of myriad diseases.

"Brain donations and brain banks are absolutely essential to neurological and psychiatric research," says Dr. Margaret Fahnestock, professor of neuroscience in the department of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences at McMaster University in Hamilton.

"One of the main reasons is that there are few to no good cellular or animal models of most neuropsychiatric conditions — schizophrenia and autism, for example," she says. "This is because we currently have a poor understanding of the cellular and molecular basis of most neuropsychiatric disorders."

Fahnestock says that in light of the lack of good experimental models, one of the best ways to make progress in understanding these disorders — and thereby to make progress in prevention or therapy — is to compare the chemistry and structure of normal and abnormal human brains.

"Thus, the generosity of donors of both normal and abnormal brains is critical to our research effort," she says.

[snip]

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Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Epilepsy

Frings L, Wagner K, Maiwald T, Carius A, Schinkel A, Lehmann C, & Schulze-Bonhage A. Early detection of behavioral side effects of antiepileptic treatment using handheld computers. Epilepsy and Behavior. 2008 Aug; 13(2) :402-406.

Epilepsy Center, University Hospital of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.

OBJECTIVE: Treatment-emergent side effects are frequent events, particularly during the uptitration of antiepileptic drugs. So far, monitoring of such adverse events in outpatients has often been limited to intervals of weeks or months. We here report the application of a new device for temporally fine-grained assessment of objective well-being and cognitive performance using personal digital assistants (PDAs). METHODS: Twenty adult patients with epilepsy participated in this pilot study. Ten received add-on treatment with levetiracetam. Ten patients with constant medication served as a control group. Differences between groups with respect to self-rated cognitive condition, psychophysical condition, aggressiveness, and cognitive test performance in a concentration test assessed three times daily (morning, early afternoon, and evening), over the course of 6 days, were analyzed. RESULTS: Levetiracetam-treated patients manifested an early augmentation of self-rated aggressiveness, which increased in intensity over the course of days. Aggressiveness reached a maximum in the early afternoon across days. There were no major changes in cognitive performance, except for an increase in morning performance in the control group. CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates the feasibility of a new method of ambulatory assessment of behavioral and cognitive data during titration of antiepileptic drugs. Significant changes in aggressiveness under add-on treatment with levetiracetam were found to be dependent on the time of assessment during the day. These results suggest that PDA-based ambulatory monitoring of patients with epilepsy may be a promising tool for early detection of drug-related side effects and, thus, may constitute a significant improvement in patient care.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

World Alzheimer's Day

Quality Assurance in Clinical Trials

Public release date: 21-Sep-2008

American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology

Quality assurance programs improve clinical trials

Boston – Quality assurance programs like the one at the Quality Assurance Review Center (QARC) in Worcester, Mass., strengthen the quality of clinical trials, including cooperative groups conducting National Cancer Institute-supported clinical trials, thereby improving the standard of care in cancer patients, according to a study presented September 21, 2008, at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology's 50th Annual Meeting in Boston.

The Quality Assurance Program, provided by QARC at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, was founded in 1980. The program's services include site credentialing to ensure that those looking to conduct clinical trials have the expertise, equipment and tools necessary to properly participate in research trials. The Quality Assurance Program also establishes benchmarks to monitor the ongoing trials and provide feedback to the physicians conducting the trials. This monitoring helps ensure that patients get the best treatments possible while making certain that the data obtained from the trials are valid and statistically significant.

From 2003 to present, QARC performed reviews on radiation therapy protocols for 6,449 patients enrolled in NCI-supported clinical trials. Cases are reviewed prior to or very early in the radiation therapy course, so that modifications in treatment can be implemented to make the treatment compliant with the study requirements. This study shows that this improved the overall quality of the clinical trial and its potential outcomes.

"Clinical trials are one the most important tools that the cancer research community has to evaluate treatments and protocols in an effort to cure cancer" T.J. FitzGerald, M.D., a study author and a radiation oncologist at QARC, said. "This study shows that a quality assurance program, like ours at QARC, can help cancer researchers conduct better clinical trials. This in turn helps patients get the best treatments possible, while recording the data in a way to help other cancer patients and further help the cancer community better understand what treatments work best."

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Neurology Podcast

Obit: Robert Katzman

Dr. Robert Katzman dies at 82; neuroscientist identified Alzheimer's disease as a 'major killer'
By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times
September 20, 2008
Link

Dr. Robert Katzman, the UC San Diego neuroscientist who pushed Alzheimer's disease into the public consciousness as a "major killer" and who co-founded the activist Alzheimer's Assn., died Tuesday at his home in La Jolla after a long illness. He was 82.

Katzman played a major role in making San Diego one of the major centers for Alzheimer's research in the United States, if not the world, bringing prominent neuroscientists and major funding to a program that had been virtually nonexistent before his arrival in 1984.

"His pioneering and, really, revolutionary work in Alzheimer's disease for more than three decades paved the way for clinical trials of potential treatments to delay the onset or progression of the disease being done today," said neuroscientist David Salmon of UC San Diego.

Alzheimer's was first described in 1906 by the Bavarian psychiatrist Dr. Alois Alzheimer. But it was considered to be a rare form of senile dementia that occurred primarily in patients younger than 65.

During the 1960s, Katzman studied many dementia patients, especially the elderly, and concluded that they had Alzheimer's.

In a seminal 1976 editorial in the journal Archives of Neurology, Katzman concluded that senile dementia was not a normal part of the aging process, as had been believed, but that it was a disease -- in fact, Alzheimer's disease.

Extrapolating from estimates of the prevalence of dementia, he concluded that Alzheimer's was the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, trailing only heart disease, cancer and stroke.

Katzman's efforts increased the number of Alzheimer's cases many-fold and challenged the long-held idea that growing old was the primary cause of dementia, sociologist Patrick Fox of UC San Francisco wrote in the Milbank Quarterly. These ideas provided the ammunition "to define the disease as a major social and health problem and to mobilize the resources to address the defined problem," he wrote.

Funding for Alzheimer's research grew from $5 million in 1980 to $647 million in 2005.

In 1977, Katzman and his close colleague Dr. Robert D. Terry of UC San Diego organized the first national conference on Alzheimer's disease, triggering a boom in research. In 1981, he and his colleagues formed the Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Assn. -- later renamed the Alzheimer's Assn. -- which has become a major source of private funding for research and an advocate for patients.

Robert Katzman was born Nov. 29, 1925, in Denver, the son of a physician. He served in the Navy during World War II as an electronic technician's mate, then enrolled in the University of Chicago. There, he became interested in the chemistry of the brain, but because there were no classes on the topic, he enrolled in Harvard Medical School, earning his degree in 1953.

After a residency at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, he joined the faculty of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, where he spent 30 years before finishing his career at La Jolla.

Although his research focused on brain chemistry, his interests were diverse. He began studying brain electrolytes and experimental models of brain swelling, then moved on to study the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain.

In 1984, he was recruited as chairman of the department of neurosciences at UC San Diego. That year, he wrote the grant proposal that resulted in the creation of the university's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, one of only five such centers in the country.

At San Diego, he led a pioneering study in China that showed that higher education delays the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Another study also found that a higher brain capacity enabled the brain to fight off the disease longer.

Katzman officially retired in 2002 but continued to participate in research and case conferences at the university hospital.

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, the former Nancy Bernstein; two sons, David of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Daniel of Clayton, Calif.; and a grandson.

===


Also, here is the UCSD Obit: Dr. Robert Katzman,
Pioneering Alzheimer’s Disease Expert, Dies

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University of Pennsylvania Neuroscience Initiative

A press release from the University of Pennsylvania:


Penn Announces $50 Million Penn Integrates Knowledge Neurosciences Initiative
September 18, 2008

PHILADELPHIA –- The University of Pennsylvania will make a major investment in neuroscience, the interdisciplinary study of brain/behavior relationships and nervous-system diseases, with a $50 million contribution from Penn’s Health System to endow five new Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) professorships.

A portion of this contribution will supply start-up funds for each PIK professorship in neuroscience and will support interdisciplinary neuroscience initiatives involving the School of Medicine and other schools of the University.

The announcement was made by Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Ronald Daniels.

“This landmark contribution by the Health System represents an extraordinary commitment toward strengthening Penn’s academic programs.” Gutmann said. “With our commitment to integrating knowledge and our formidable teaching and research capacity in medicine and the neural and behavioral sciences, Penn can drive progress in the path-breaking fields of brain science.

“This $50 million contribution, coupled with Penn’s collaborative cross-school team approach, helps empower Penn to develop the knowledge needed to improve our understanding of the neural basis of behavior, including human cognition and emotion and ultimately to improve the health and well being of people around the globe.”

The $50 million adds to the Health System’s existing funding for new centers and institutes, support toward the construction of a new research building and aggressive faculty recruitment efforts in the School of Medicine.

PIK professorships, a University-wide initiative launched by Gutmann in 2005, are awarded to exceptional faculty members whose research and teaching exemplify the integration of knowledge across fields of study.

This new $50 million Penn Integrates Knowledge Neuroscience Initiative is in addition to several significant neuroscience initiatives currently underway or planned at Penn including:

• Eighteen faculty positions in the neurosciences added since 2006.

• Dedicated neuroscience facilities in the Fisher Translational Research Center intended to accelerate the conversion of cutting-edge research into new therapies and treatments and funded by a recent $50 million gift from Anne and Jerome Fisher.

• A new Neural and Behavioral Sciences Building in the School of Arts and Sciences designed to integrate research and education in psychology, biology and cognitive sciences.

• Enhanced facilities for Penn’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Center for Functional Neuroimaging. Penn has been a world leader in neuroscience research and training since 1953 when it founded the Mahoney Institute of Neurological Sciences, the nation’s first university-wide institute devoted exclusively to neuroscience research.

“We are confident,” Daniels said, “that the new Penn Integrates Knowledge Neuroscience Initiative will allow Penn to continue to lead the life-sciences revolution by empowering our world-class faculty and investigators to take giant strides toward improving the health and well being of people around the globe.”

Penn supports one of the world’s leading neuroscience research communities: 182 faculty from 32 departments across six schools, a pioneering undergraduate program in Biological Basis of Behavior and a Neuroscience Graduate Group that fosters the next generation of neuroscientists.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Upcoming Event: 16 October 2008, Morgantown, West Virginia

For Immediate Release
Contact: Jenni Brewer

August 26, 2008

...

PIONEERING NEUROSCIENCES INSTITUTE SETS DATE FOR DEDICATION OF NEW FACILITY AND FIRST-EVER INTERNATIONAL FORUM ON MEMORY AND MEMORY DISORDERS

ON OCTOBER 16 WORLD-RENOWNED SCIENTISTS WILL CONVENE TO SHARE CUTTING EDGE RESEARCH ON ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE, MEMORY AND AGING

Morgantown, W.Va. - On October 16th, 2008, the new $30 million
Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute (BRNI) located on the
campus on West Virginia University and founded in honor of U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller's mother, will play host to prominent international scientists who are advancing research on Alzheimer's disease and other memory disorders. The first-ever International Forum on Memory and Memory Disorders will highlight the work of nine celebrated scientists whose research have led to breakthrough advances for the aging brain, Alzheimer's disease, and patients suffering from memory loss and memory disorders. The next day, on October 17, BRNI will open its doors to the public and further continue the Institute's research, which started nearly nine years ago. The approximately 78,000 square foot three-level building will provide state-of-the-art laboratory space and support research activities for nearly a hundred scientists and researchers.

"Even before the doors have opened, BRNI has undertaken ground-breaking
research into the treatment for Alzheimer's and other neurological
disorders. Now, for the first time ever, the best and brightest minds
in our country, and from around the world, will gather to discuss the
state of memory and memory disorders research and have a place to carry
on their important work," said Sen. Rockefeller. "I know the heartbreak
that comes with having someone you love slowly fade from Alzheimer's.
BRNI's opening is a great day for not only West Virginia, but for all
families across the globe that will benefit from its important work."

The prestigious list of scientists chosen to share their research is an
international mix of experts from Switzerland, to Harvard Medical
School, to West Virginia University and includes:

Professor Floyd Bloom, Professor Emeritus and Chairman of Neuropharmacology, The Scripps Institute, Professor Andrew Matus, Director, Emeritus Neurobiology, Friedrich Miescher Institute, Novartis Research Foundation, Switzerland, Professor Howard Eichenbaum, Director, Center for Memory, Boston University, Professor Tracy Shors, Department of Psychology, Center for Collaborative Neuroscience, Rutgers University, Dr. Daniel Alkon, Scientific Director, Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute at West Virginia University, Professor Rudi Tanzi, Director, Genetics and Aging Unit, Harvard Medical School, Professor Sangram Sisodia, Director, Center for Brain Disease, University of Chicago, Professor James Stevenson, Chairman, Department
of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry, West Virginia University School of Medicine and Professor Carol Barnes, Director, Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, The University of Arizona.

"Because of the dedication of Sen. Rockefeller and his passion for finding a cure for Alzheimer's, this magnificent facility and its outstanding world-renowned scientists can work everyday to unlock the
causes and treatments for this troubling disease," said Dr. Daniel
Alkon, Scientific Director at BRNI. "BRNI's hosting of the International Forum on Memory and Memory Disorders will shine a global spotlight on our own work and contribute to the progress we are making in finding a cure for Alzheimer's disease and new undiscovered treatments for memory disorders."

The only non-profit independent institution in the world dedicated to the study of human memory and memory disorders, BRNI was established by Rockefeller in 1999 in honor of his mother, Blanchette, who was afflicted by Alzheimer's disease. The Institute's scientific exploration of memory and memory disorders has led to recent discoveries with a drug - Bryostatin - shown to create new connections in the brain, among other revolutionary findings. BRNI's work expands and advances the scientific research of memory and memory disorders for the purposes of prevention, diagnosis and treatment, with the goal of moving research out of the laboratory and into the hands of physicians and patients.

For more information on the Blanchette Rockefeller
Neurosciences Institute or to register to attend the International
Forum, visit www.brni.org .

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Self-Navigating Wheelchair

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Pain Assessment

Jensen MP, Mardekian J, Lakshminarayanan M, & Boye ME. Validity of 24-h recall ratings of pain severity: Biasing effects of "Peak" and "End" pain. Pain. 2008 Jul 15; 137(2): 422-427.

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Box 356490, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA 98195-6490, USA.

Despite the frequent use of pain recall ratings in clinical research, there remains doubt about the ability of individuals to accurately recall their pain. In particular, previous research indicates the possibility that the most pain experienced during a recall period and the most recent pain experienced (known as peak and end effects, respectively) might bias recall ratings. The current study used data from a published clinical trial to determine the relative validity of a 24-h recall rating of average post-operative pain and the nature and extent of any biasing influence of peak and end effects on nine separate 24-h recall ratings. The results supported a statistically significant but small biasing influence of both peak and end pain. Also, the influence of peak pain was stronger than that of end pain. However, the biasing impact of both peak and end pain together was very small, suggesting that 24-h recall ratings are adequately valid indicants of average pain for patients participating in post-surgery clinical pain trials.

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