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Scripps Florida Scientist Wins $1 Million Grant to Develop New Tests That Could Lead to New Therapeutics for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease

JUPITER, FL, October 24, 2013 – A scientist from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has been awarded just over $1 million from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health to develop a series of tests (“assays”) that could point the way to potential new ways to find therapies for a host of debilitating diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Philip LoGrasso, a professor in the Department of Molecular Therapeutics and senior scientific director in the Translational Research Institute at TSRI, is the principal investigator for the new three-year study.

The link between these seemingly disparate diseases is a protein known as jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK), an important contributor to stress-induced cell death in key cell types, including neurons, heart muscle cells and beta-islets (which store and release insulin).

LoGrasso’s goal is to develop novel assays that will point to new drug candidates and a better understanding of how inhibiting JNK can prevent mitochondrial dysfunction (disrupting the energy source of the cell) and cell death.

“This grant will help us take kinase assay development and drug discovery in a bold new direction,” LoGrasso said. The new tests, he added, should produce inhibitors that could be much more selective and have the potential for reduced toxicity.

One of LoGrasso’s discoveries related to JNK is already in development with OPKO Health, Inc., a Miami-based biotechnology company, for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

The number of the grant is 1R01GM103825-01A1.

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 2,700 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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