June 1, 2011

Chemistry Professor Edward R. Biehl

Synthetic compounds developed in the lab of Chemistry Professor Edward R. Biehl one day may help the millions
of people who suffer from nerve-degenerating diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s.
Biehl developed and tested the compounds with SMU postdoctoral researchers Sukanta Kamila and Haribabu Ankati, and Santosh R. D’Mello, a biology professor at The University of Texas at Dallas. The family of small molecules shows promise in protecting brain cells.

SMU and UTD have granted Dallas-based startup EncephRx, Inc. the worldwide license to the jointly owned compounds. A biotechnology and therapeutics company, EncephRx will develop drug therapies based on the new class of compounds as a pharmaceutical for preventing nerve-cell damage and delaying onset of degenerative nerve disease.

Current treatments don’t stop or reverse degenerative nerve diseases, but only alleviate symptoms, sometimes with severe side effects. If proved effective and nontoxic in humans, EncephRx’s small-molecule pharmaceutical would be the first therapeutic tool able to stop affected brain cells from dying because of these diseases.

The researchers now will assist EncephRx in testing and analyzing the primary compound. The company initially will focus development and testing efforts on Huntington’s disease and potentially will have medications ready for human trials in two years.

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