“The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” That’s how Lynne E. Maquat, PhD, describes the process of how her research extended to Fragile X syndrome to better understand it and ultimately find advanced treatments.
Although the clinical trials failed to show efficacy in the patient population and Novartis and Roche discontinued their Fragile X development programs, Dr. Senter has worked with Mark Bear, PhD to carefully review parent observations. Those caregiver reports suggested tolerance to mGlu5 antagonists antagonists developed quickly, consistent with some preclinical findings in the mouse model.
FRAXA Research Foundation was founded in 1994 to fund biomedical research aimed at finding a cure for Fragile X syndrome and, ultimately, autism. We prioritize translational research with the potential to lead to improved treatments for Fragile X in the near term. Our early efforts involved supporting a great deal of basic neuroscience to understand the cause of Fragile X. By 1996, these efforts had already begun to yield results useful for drug repurposing. To date, FRAXA has funded well over $25 million in research, with over $3 million of that for repurposing existing drugs for Fragile X. Here are some examples of FRAXA-funded work on repurposing available drugs for Fragile X syndrome: Lithium In the mid-1990s, the Greenough lab at the University of Illinois discovered that FMRP, the protein missing in Fragile X, is rapidly translated in dendrites in response to stimulation of glutamate receptors. FRAXA funded preclinical validation of this discovery in theRead more
Yes, we all know the signs of Fragile X anxiety: Ears begin turning red followed by incessant pacing, heavy breathing, stiffening body, flapping, jumping, avoidance or yelling. Sometimes, it’s the more severe screaming, pinching, scratching, biting and general tearing things up or, worse, the nuclear meltdown.
FRAXA awarded $44,000 to Healx in 2017 for drug repurposing to find new treatments for Fragile X syndrome. The results of this study include eight top “hits” which show promise for Fragile X. FRAXA is further investigating these hits.
Johns Hopkins Researcher Christina Timmerman, PhD, Searches for a Less Subjective Method to Determine if a Drug is Working in Patients with Fragile X Syndrome Many parents of children with Fragile X syndrome were crushed when promising drug trials were unexpectedly stopped a few years ago because subjective behavior-based outcome measures did not justify continuing the trials. The strong feelings linger today. If all goes well with Christina Timmerman’s research, future drug trials may be able to continue with additional metrics for assessment, until there are advanced treatments or even a cure for Fragile X syndrome. This will be welcome news to parents. Timothy Gamache, graduate student, and Christina Timmerman, PhD “We hope a more quantitative outcome measure, such as the proposed microRNA biomarker, would allow for a less subjective method to determine if a drug is working or not,” said Dr. Timmerman, Postdoctoral Fellow, Lab of Mollie Meffert, DepartmentRead more
Our sons with Fragile X Syndrome typically go to bed early and rise early. Sometimes they jump on us while we are sleeping at 3 a.m., excited to start their day. For heaven’s sake, whY, wHY, WHY? The answer may come from Carolyn Beebe Smith, PhD, senior investigator, Section on Neuroadaptation and Protein Metabolism, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland. She is studying why children, in particularly boys, with FXS have problems sleeping. “We know sleep is important for many aspects of brain function,” said Dr. Smith, who received a PhD from the University of London where she studied the chemical pathology of Alzheimer’s for which she was awarded the Queen Square Prize. “In studies of healthy mice, we have shown restricted sleep during brain development can result in long-lasting changes in behavior. We are interested in understanding if sleep problems contribute to severity ofRead more
Rush University Medical Center Professor Elizabeth M. Berry-Kravis, MD, PhD, Begins a Large-Scale Clinical Trial to Study Effects of AFQ056, an mGluR5 Blocker, on Learning in Young Children BERRY tenacious! You can say a lot about Elizabeth M. Berry-Kravis, MD, PhD: • University of Notre Dame and University of Chicago educated. • Professor of Pediatrics, Neurological Sciences, Biochemistry, Rush University Medical Center. • Board certified in neurology with a special qualification in child neurology. • Expert in Fragile X syndrome and other neurogenetic diseases. You can also say she’ll talk your ears off. Literally! And much of it may go over your head. Yes, she often talks in industry jargon. Plenty of it. OK, we get it. She’s smart. Super smart. She’s caring. Super caring. She’s knowledgeable. Super knowledgeable. But did you know she’s tenacious? Incredibly, super-duper, berry tenacious? Good thing for us she’s on our side. No doubt herRead more
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Researcher Mark Bear, PhD, Sees Success Developing Disease-Modifying Treatments for Fragile X Syndrome and Other Developmental Brain Disorders Finally, hope. And it comes from the lab of Mark Bear, PhD, Picower Professor of Neuroscience, The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Dr. Bear is building on the “mGluR theory” and applied insights gained by the study of Fragile X and other genetically defined causes of intellectual disability and autism with some success. His goal is to discover and facilitate the development of disease-modifying treatments for Fragile X and other developmental brain disorders. “Neurons in the brain communicate with each other at specialized junctions called synapses,” said Bear, who earned a BS from Duke University and a PhD in neurobiology at Brown University. “Such modifications are the basis for memory storage in the brain, and go awryRead more
Sensory Overload Ever wonder why your child with Fragile X suddenly screams for no apparent reason or jumps and flaps uncontrollably seemingly for hours? You got it: hyperexcitability. But what exactly causes it? And what can fix it? Kimberly Huber, PhD, is working long and hard in her lab to answer those questions. Dr. Huber, professor, Neuroscience, UT Southwestern Medical Center, is seeking to understand how FMRP regulates connections between brain cells, called synapses, and the function of brain circuits, which are several connected brain cells. Her current focus is the study of synapses and brain circuits in the mouse that mediate sensory perception, including perception of touch and sound. She aims to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which loss of FMRP causes hyperexcitable sensory circuits. The goal: to develop targeted therapeutics that can restore normal brain function and reduce sensory hypersensitivity. “Sensory brain circuits are overactive, or hyperexcitable,Read more
FRAXA Research Foundation funded a 2016-2017 Fellowship for Dr. Stephanie Barnes in the University of Edinburgh lab of Dr. Emily Osterweil. With this $90,000 award, the team is investigating NMDA signaling in fragile X syndrome mice. $90,000 GrantEmily Osterweil, PhD Principal Investigator Stephanie Barnes, PhD FRAXA Postdoctoral Fellow University of Edinburgh 2016-2017 FRAXA Research Grant $90,000 over 2 Years A Neuron to Remember: Correcting Imbalances in Fragile X SyndromeUniversity of Edinburgh Researcher Emily Osterweil, PhD, Probes the Brain’s Biochemistry to Correct Imbalances We know the “X” in Fragile X refers to the X chromosome, but it could just as easily refer to the unknown.Such as why do people with Fragile X have an excessive production of new proteins in their brains that lead to imbalances? That question is being dissected in the lab of Emily Osterweil, PhD, chancellor’s fellow, Centre for Integrative Physiology, University of Edinburgh, UK. Dr. Osterweil is usingRead more
bio·mark·er, noun, a distinctive biological or biologically derived indicator of a process, event, or condition. Doesn’t help? Well, it’s perfectly clear to Argentinian researchers Patricia Cogram, PhD, and Paulina Carullo, MD, from the FLENI Institute in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They understand there is an urgent need for validated biomarkers after recent Fragile X syndrome clinical trials have failed on their primary endpoints. “Biomarkers are key to learning more about their correlation with clinical and behavioral characteristics across diverse developmental stages in Fragile X syndrome,” said Dr. Cogram, the principal investigator of FRAXA’s Drug Validation Initiative (FRAXA-DVI) to test preclinicaly potential compounds for FXS. “We are searching for biomarkers that could potentially be used for clinical trials for treatment in children, teenagers, and adults with Fragile X.” Cue parents. Yes, you. Targets: your Child’s Cognitive, Behavioral and Emotional Impairments Dr. Cogram and Dr. Carullo are looking for families of children withRead more
A new company has launched that will invest tens of millions in reactivating the Fragile X gene. With $55 million in investment funds, Fulcrum Therapeutics in Cambridge, MA, aim to develop small molecules to control gene expression. These potential new treatments would be based on controlling genetic on- and off-switches of disease genes. Fulcrum will start with two diseases: Fragile X syndrome and a rare form of muscular dystrophy. FRAXA is funding one of the founding scientists, Jeannie Lee, MD, PhD, of Harvard University, and has been working with others on the new Fulcrum team. In fact, Dr. Lee will be our speaker at the FRAXA Fall Fling fundraiser this September 30, in Cambridge, Mass. Together, with your support and with support from new companies like Fulcrum, with support from FRAXA’s Nobel Laureate-laden Scientific Advisory Board and passionate Board of Directors, we are united more than ever in finding a cure for Fragile X. More About Fulcrum http://www.fiercebiotech.com/biotech/third-rock-launches-gene-regulation-startup-55mRead more
Cornell University researcher Samie R. Jaffrey, MD, PhD and Postdoctoral Fellow Jiahui Wu, PhD were awarded $90,000 by over 2016-2018 by FRAXA for their project, Which is the right FMRP for Therapeutic Development of Fragile X Syndrome? Here's the Rub When researchers develop effective drugs that reactivate FMRP — the protein that is normally silenced in Fragile X — what in the world will they do next? So ponders Cornell University researcher Samie R. Jaffrey, MD, PhD. Jaffrey, professor, Pharmacology, Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University, knows reactivating FMRP will lead to many important questions, such as: Which cell type needs FMRP? How much FMRP protein is needed to restore brain function? Where in the brain will FMRP protein be needed? Where in a neuron will the FMRP needs to be expressed? Will FMRP protein be created in the correct quantity and location to work as a therapeutic? In anticipationRead more
Dr. Maurin and Dr. Bardoni were awarded $90,000 over two years from FRAXA Research Foundation for their project, “Modulating cAMP And cGMP Levels As A New Therapeutic Approach For FXS”, in May 2016. They aim to gain a better understanding of how the brain develops and functions Like snowflakes, people with Fragile X Syndrome are not all alike. Some respond differently to the same drugs, as previous Fragile X research has shown. Understanding this phenomena is leading French scientists Barbara Bardoni, PhD, and Thomas Maurin, PhD, to identify new drugs to improve treatments in patients with Fragile X. Among the proteins they have identified, some are known to control brain function and development. This has helped identify a set of candidate proteins for which there are pre-existing active chemical compounds that target their activity. Using these compounds in vitro may revert some FXS hallmarks. “Access to different drugs will allow some flexibility inRead more
New York University scientists make progress developing biomarker signatures and cataloging the types of Fragile X patients who will most likely benefit from new therapies Take a closer look at your son or daughter with Fragile X syndrome. If you meet another child with Fragile X syndrome, chances are he/she may seem totally different to you, yet everyone is united under a FXS diagnosis. Discovering the biological reasons behind these differences is key to identifying which children will respond to what treatment. But how do you find the ‘prediction formula’? New York University scientists may soon know. Co-Principal Investigators Eric Klann, professor, NYU Center for Neural Science, and Aditi Bhattacharya, Independent Investigator, Center for Brain Development, inStem, Bangalore and Heather Bowling, PhD, a post-doc fellow, are working together in the second year of a FRAXA-funded study to develop reliable and relevant biomarkers to examine new therapeutics. Their current research isRead more
Targeted transcriptional reactivation of FMR1 in Fragile X Syndrome stem cells Peter Todd MD, PhD Principal Investigator Jill Haenfler PhD Postdoctoral Fellow University of Michigan Medical Center $45,000 in 2016 renewed for $45,000 in 2017 Swimming Upstream Fish like salmon are born in fresh water streams and rivers. When the time comes for them to breed, they return to the stream of their birth to lay eggs in the same spot where they were born. To accomplish this, they must swim upstream against the current or flow of the stream. Taking a page out of the salmon DNA playbook, University of Michigan scientists Peter Todd, MD, PhD, and postdoctoral fellow Jill Haenfler, Ph.D., are exploring unchartered waters to find a cure for Fragile X Syndrome. The researchers are adapting CRISPR research to reactivate the FMR1 gene, which provides instructions for making a protein called FMRP — needed for normal brainRead more
A potential new treatment for Fragile X syndrome is showing promise. While still early in development, the investigational drug was able to improve intellectual, learning and hyperactivity measures in a mouse model of Fragile X syndrome. Anavex 2-73 is a sigma-1 receptor agonist being developed for autism spectrum disorders, including Rett syndrome and Fragile X syndrome, and for Alzheimer’s disease. Anavex Life Sciences presented the data at the Gordon Research Conference for Fragile X and Autism-Related Disorders, held June 5-10, 2016 in Mount Snow, VT. The study was sponsored by FRAXA, via the FRAXA Drug Validation Initiative, and performed by Fraunhofer Chile Research, in Santiago, Chile. “The ANAVEX 2-73 data in an array of behavioral paradigms in a validated mouse model of Fragile X is very encouraging. The results are promising for both Fragile X syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorders, since there is an overlap in the clinical as well asRead more
University of California Researchers Khaleel Razak, PhD, and Jonathan W. Lovelace, PhD, Explore Drug Combinations to Limit Hypersensitivity to Sounds in Fragile X Mice We’ve all been there. Our child with Fragile X hears something and becomes excited. Very excited. Hand flapping follows with non-stop jumping and ear-piercing squawking. Nothing helps. No meds. No iPhone. No magic toy. Several minutes go by. Sometimes longer. How many times have you apologized in a grocery store — or restaurant — or at the mall? Wouldn’t it make our lives better if this unpredictable excitability was minimalized or eliminated? That’s the premise behind research being conducted at University of California, Riverside. Principal Investigator Khaleel Razak, PhD, and postdoctoral fellow Jonathan W. Lovelace, PhD, are studying mice genetically altered to mimic the genetic characteristics of humans with Fragile X Syndrome. Their focus is on the mouse brain’s electrical activity when different kinds of soundsRead more
David Nelson, PhD; With Yanghong Gu, PhD; and Ruiting Zong, PhD It’s rare to find a researcher working on the Big Three — Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), Fragile X-associated Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome (FXTAS) and Fragile X-associated primary ovarian insufficiency (FXPOI). Then again, David Nelson, PhD, is the rare bird. Nelson is a professor of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, and director of Baylor’s Graduate Program in Integrative Molecular and Biomedical Sciences. He has been involved in FXS research since the late 1980s where he helped identify the mutation and the FMR1 gene. These days, researchers in Nelson’s lab at Baylor are studying FXS, FXTAS and FXPOI using mouse models. The goals are to understand which cell/tissue types contribute to these disorders, which genes are involved and what can be done to modify the course of the disorder as a result of these findings. “We are developing mice thatRead more
Jean-Francois Lepage, PhD, and Francois Corbin, MD, PhD, with MRI machine If all the science world’s a stage, Fragile X researchers are more than merely players. They are center stage. So believes Francois Corbin, MD, PhD, professor, Université de Sherbrooke, Canada, who directs the university’s Fragile X Clinic. Corbin, who has received more than $100,000 in FRAXA support since 2012, is leading a pilot randomized Phase II trial, exploring the tolerability and the synergistic effect of a combined therapy. They will combine minocycline, which is often used to treat acne, and lovastatin, which is used to lower cholesterol. Both drugs target specific alterations in the brain of Fragile X patients that would potentially have a combined powerful effect on their behavior. “To my knowledge, this is the first time we have a clinical trial with two different drugs combined to act on two different targets,” Corbin said. “The combined actionRead more
Sean McBride, MD, PhD, and Thomas Jongens, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania Adapted from press release by University of Pennsylvania A new FRAXA-funded study shows how the hormone insulin – usually associated with diabetes — is involved in the daily activity patterns and learning deficits in the fruit fly model of Fragile X Syndrome (FXS). The study also reveal a metabolic pathway that can be targeted by new and already approved drugs to treat Fragile X patients, notably metformin. The scientists study the common fruitfly, Drosophila, whose genome contains a cousin, or homologue, of the human FMR1 gene called dfmr1. The lab of Thomas Jongens, PhD, an associate professor of Genetics, along with doctoral student Rachel Monyak and Sean McBride, MD, PhD, a psychiatrist at the Adult Developmental Disorders and Monogenic Disorders Clinic with Penn Behavioral Health, have been working with the fly model to find new therapies to treat the behavioralRead more
4 Countries – 10 Teams – $1 Million From finding new treatment targets, to pinpointing outcome measures for future clinical trials, to attempting to reactivate the gene which is silenced in Fragile X syndrome, these innovative scientists will bring us closer to a cure. Improving Clinical Trials Many parents of children with Fragile X know well the struggles of getting their children to sleep through the night. Mice and fruit flies engineered to mimic Fragile X Syndrome also have disrupted sleep. Drs. Westmark and Smith will test potential therapeutics in mice using sleep as an outcome measure and investigate whether sleep could be used as an outcome measure for future clinical trials. The search is on for a simple blood test to measure how well a treatment works for an individual with Fragile X. Dr. Frank Kooy's team investigates. Testing Treatment Targets One of the goals of FRAXA’s research program has been to find biological pathwaysRead more