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Scripps Florida Scientists Design a Potential Drug Compound that Attacks Parkinson’s Disease on Two Fronts

JUPITER, FL, June 20, 2013 – Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found a compound that could counter Parkinson’s disease in two ways at once.

In a new study published recently online ahead of print by the journal ACS Chemical Biology, the scientists describe a “dual inhibitor”—two compounds in a single molecule—that attacks a pair of proteins closely associated with development of Parkinson’s disease.

“In general, these two enzymes amplify the effect of each other,” said team leader Phil LoGrasso, a TSRI professor who has been a pioneer in the development of JNK inhibitors for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. “What we were looking for is a high-affinity, high-selectivity treatment that is additive or synergistic in its effect—a one-two punch.”

That could be what they found.

This new dual inhibitor attacks two enzymes—the leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) and the c-jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK)—pronounced “junk.” Genetic testing of several thousand Parkinson’s patients has shown that mutations in the LRRK2 gene increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease, while JNK has been shown to play an important role in neuron (nerve cell) survival in a range of neurodegenerative diseases. As such, they have become highly viable targets for drugs to treat disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

A dual inhibitor ultimately would be preferred over separate individual JNK and LRRK2 inhibitors because a combination molecule would eliminate complications of drug-drug interactions and the need to optimize individual inhibitor doses for efficacy, the study noted.

Now the team’s new dual inhibitor will need to be optimized for potency, high selectivity (which reduces off-target side effects) and bioavailability so it can be tested in animal models of Parkinson’s disease.

The first author of the study, “A Small Molecule Bidentate-Binding Dual Inhibitor Probe of the LRRK2 and JNK Kinases,” is Yangbo Feng of TSRI. Other authors include Jeremy W. Chambers, Sarah Iqbal, Marcel Koenig, HaJeung Park, Lisa Cherry, Pamela Hernandez and Mariana Figuera-Losada. For more information see http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/cb3006165

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant NS057153. 

About The Scripps Research Institute

The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) is one of the world's largest independent, not-for-profit organizations focusing on research in the biomedical sciences. TSRI is internationally recognized for its contributions to science and health, including its role in laying the foundation for new treatments for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia, and other diseases. An institution that evolved from the Scripps Metabolic Clinic founded by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps in 1924, the institute now employs about 3,000 people on its campuses in La Jolla, CA, and Jupiter, FL, where its renowned scientists—including two Nobel laureates—work toward their next discoveries. The institute's graduate program, which awards PhD degrees in biology and chemistry, ranks among the top ten of its kind in the nation. For more information, see www.scripps.edu.

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