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
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
2016 Funding Priorities Start with Clinical Trials While FRAXA Research Foundation’s research goals remain largely unchanged, the landscape in which we operate has changed significantly in the past few years. Negative results from the major clinical trials of investigational agents have resulted in cessation of development of mGluR5 antagonists for Fragile X syndrome. There is still much evidence that this drug class could be successful as a Fragile X therapeutic, but we do not see the need for more “proof of principle”-type preclinical research on mGluR5 antagonists. Studies of possible mechanisms of tolerance in Fragile X would be appealing as a topic going forward, as would studies of circuit function in Fragile X, since available evidence suggests some form of circuit-based (rather than synaptic) tolerance in Fragile X mice and humans. Other potential areas of interest would include exploration of combination treatment strategies, both in animal models and in clinicalRead more
Drug Tolerance and Dose Range Problems May Have Been the CulpritsAndy Tranfaglia and his dad, Mike Tranfaglia In my opinion, the Fragile X clinical trials of AFQ056 sponsored by Novartis failed because of a dose range that was inadequate for Fragile X, and because of the unexpected development of tolerance. Dosage problems are relatively easy to correct, but tolerance to the degree we observed may be a kind of fatal flaw, at least if we're talking about mGluR5 antagonists. The mGluR Theory of Fragile X is still probably correct; it's just that no one (least of all Novartis) expected tolerance to this drug -- indeed, I'm not sure they would agree that's what happened. I think we saw a much better response than most people because our son, Andy, was also on minocycline, effectively augmenting the response, and perhaps delaying the development of tolerance. This may be a clue to understanding the mechanism of tolerance,Read more
One of the features of the Fragile X mouse model which is relevant to the human Fragile X syndrome (and autism) is social behavior. Several tests show consistent social behavioral abnormalities in the Fragile X mouse model. With a $140,000 grant from FRAXA Research Foundation in 2012-2013, Dr. Willemsen at Erasmus University used social behavior tests to measure the effectiveness of several drug strategies.
by Leslie Martini Eddy Saša Zorović first learned his son Anders’ had Fragile X syndrome when he was four years old. The diagnosis hadn’t come easily. Anders had been tested for Fragile X a year earlier and the results were negative. “We are not sure to this day why that happened. His geneticist suspected Fragile X and ordered the test, but it came back negative. We continued seeing other doctors and specialists, trying to get an understanding of what Anders had,” Saša said. A year later, another geneticist took a look at Anders and said with certainty, “He has Fragile X.” After a thorough examination of Anders and sorting through previous reports, another test was ordered. This time it came back positive. Anders had Fragile X after all. Anders showed symptoms of Fragile X early on. At 9 months, his very low muscle tone prevented him from sitting up straightRead more
Treatment Trials As you probably know, three pharmaceutical companies are conducting clinical trials in Fragile X. Two Swiss giants, Novartis and Roche, are racing to get their lead mGluR5 antagonists to market, and U.S. startup Seaside Therapeutics is pursuing a compound which targets the brain receptor, GABAB. Novartis has large-scale Phase IIb/III trials of the drug AFQ056 well underway. Sites worldwide are enrolling adolescents and adults, with 35 more adults needed and recruitment of adolescents planned through Fall 2012. At this point, some participants have already completed the placebo-controlled trial and are now taking AFQ056, with the option of continuing it until it reaches the market. Novartis is also working toward a trial of AFQ056 for younger children with Fragile X. Roche completed a Phase II trial of its mGluR5 antagonist (currently with the catchy name of RO4917523) last year and is about to commence a larger Phase II trialRead more
On the eve of Thanksgiving, we want to thank everyone who has helped bring us so close to available treatments - and to take stock of where we are. by Michael R. Tranfaglia, MD Medical Director and Fragile X Parent Each year, we’ve described ever greater progress toward our ultimate goal: disease-modifying treatments and an ultimate cure for Fragile X. At times it must seem that this quest will take forever; however, the pace of research has truly moved into high gear in 2011! While FRAXA’s mission to find a cure for Fragile X is simple in concept, it is clearly a daunting task. To address the overwhelming complexity of this challenge, we have developed a plan of attack: • We fund high-quality basic research on the causes of Fragile X, which leads to possible treatment strategies (therapeutic targets). • We fund some of the finest neuroscientists in the worldRead more
With $155,000 in grants from FRAXA Research Foundation over several years, Dr. Miklos Toth of Cornell University discovered increased startle response in Fragile X mice and that baclofen can correct this phenotype. They also studied epigenetics (ie factors other than the gene itself) which can determine symptom severity in Fragile X.