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Antiepileptic drug developed at Hebrew University to undergo phase three clinical trials

The new antiepileptic drug valrocemide, developed at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem by Meir Bialer, the David Eisenberg Professor of Pharmacy, will undergo phase three clinical trials in the U.S. under a new agreement between Teva Pharmaceutical Industries of Israel and Acorda Therapeutics of the U.S.

Teva acquired the rights to the drug from the Hebrew University's Yissum Research Development Company for the production of a treatment for epilepsy and other neurological and psychiatric diseases.

Epilepsy is a widespread neurological disease. Approximately one percent of the world's population suffers from it, and annual sales of antiepileptic drugs in the U.S. amount to more than $2 billion per year.

There are several existing drugs on the market for patients with epilepsy. However, some one-third of the patients do not react positively to these treatments, and as a result they continue to suffer periodic epileptic seizures. There is a need, therefore, to develop new drugs that will provide relief to patients who are not seizure-free or who suffer serious side effects from existing drugs.

The brain contains amino acids that serve as neurotransmitters, either activating or inhibiting neural transmissions within the central nervous system. Epilepsy is caused, among other reasons, by disturbances in the balance between these two functions: a rise in the level of the activating (excitatory) amino acids or a reduction in the level of the inhibitory acids.

Glycine is one of the inhibitory acids, and increasing its concentration in the brain has an antiepileptic effect. However, it is impossible to administer it to patients in its natural state, because it cannot penetrate the blood-brain barrier that prevents medications from reaching their target sites.

Prof. Bialer's research team, which included his former doctoral student, Dr. Salim Hadad, worked to develop a glycine derivative which would penetrate the blood-bra
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Contact: Jerry Barach
jerryb@savion.huji.ac.il
972-2-588-2904
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
1-Oct-2003


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