Winter 2003

Page 1

The Burnham Report



the pace of drug discovery





> Accelerating

> A new way to combat cancer, thanks to Burnham researchers

> Why brain cells die—and what that could mean for treating disease

> Announcing the President's Council



The Burnham Report WINTER 2003

Vol. 1, No. 1


Announcing the President’s Council. This pin is worn by people who share a passion for eliminating human suffering from disease. THE PRESIDENT’S COUNCIL OF THE BURNHAM INSTITUTE

The Burnham Institute has established

$1000 or more to The Burnham

the President’s Council in recognition

Institute. At the annual President’s

of a simple fact: extraordinary generos-

Council reception, members will

ity makes for extraordinary science.

hear how their generosity supports

Private philanthropy is essential in the Institute’s progress, making possi-

mysteries of cells to improve human life.

President’s Council, you’ll ensure that The Burnham

researchers’ latest breakthroughs. By joining the President’s Council,

ble new therapies and potential cures

you make a strong statement about

for cancer, stroke, heart disease,

the importance of The Burnham

Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other

Institute’s mission—and can take

diseases. Private support ensures that

pride in knowing that you have

scientists have access to the latest tech-

played a role in the discovery of

nological advances, helps young scien-

tomorrow’s cures.

tists launch their careers, and nurtures

For more information about

pilot projects that forge new frontiers.

the President’s Council, please call

The President’s Council honors

Unlocking the

“By joining the

Institute will be at the vanguard of lifesaving treatments and diagnostic discoveries.” JOHN C. REED, M.D., PH.D.

President and CEO, The Burnham Institute


donors who make annual gifts of

T H E B UR N H A M I N S T I T U T E 10901 North Torrey Pines Road La Jolla, CA 92037

A new trigger to brain cell death uncovered recently by Burnham Institute scientists may point

Nonprofit Organization U.S. Postage PAID The Burnham Institute

toward new treatments for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and stroke.

WELCOME TO THE B UR N H A M R E P O R T It is a pleasure to welcome you to The Burnham Report, designed to bring you news of happenings at the Institute on a regular basis. The current issue describes several research programs with important implications for human health. You’ll read about advances ranging from an exciting new program to find cancer drugs to new developments in neuroscience, which may lead to treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and stroke. We hope you enjoy reading about this work and the other Institute news you’ll find inside. We appreciate your support. JOHN C. REED, MD., PH.D.

President and CEO

The trigger, a common gas known as

between cells that allow activities

nitric oxide, flips a switch on proteins

such as learning and memory forma-

called MMPs (for matrix metallopro-

tion to take place. MMPs are found

teinases) that are known to spark

outside brain cells, where they appear

nerve cell death.

to help maintain a proper environ-

“The new work uncovers the

ment for the cells. But evidence

mechanism of activation of an enzy-

suggests that excessive or mistimed

matic pathway that leads to nerve

activation of either system could

cell death,” says Professor Stuart A.

lead to wholesale destruction

Lipton, a practicing neurologist and

of nerve cells, resulting in a host

director of Burnham’s Center for

of neurological disorders.

Neuroscience and Aging Research. Lipton and his colleagues hope

“Now that we know about this new pathway causing nerve cell

that learning more about nitric oxide,

death, we can design drugs to inter-

MMPs and the interactions between

rupt it,” says Lipton. He and his team

them will allow the development of

are starting to test potential drugs in

strategies to counteract their lethal

experimental models of stroke and

effects on brain cells.

neurodegenerative diseases.

Both nitric oxide and MMPs

“The work gives us a new way

are needed for normal functions in

to think about preventing excessive

the body. Nitric oxide plays a vital

activity of MMP enzymes and as

role in regulating blood pressure

such it could lead to new therapies

and, in the brain, carries messages

for a wide variety of brain disorders.” Stuart A. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D. Director Del E. Webb Center for Neuroscience and Aging Research