An Inventor of the vaccination approach for the treatment of Alzheimer's Dale Schenk is the inventor of beta amyloid immunotherapy, which seeks to use the body's own immune system to rid the brain of the plaque that is the hallmark of Alzheimer's. His work in this area—as well as in early detection, testing, and other therapeutic pathways—has led to the most advanced potential treatment approaches for the disease.
- Occupation: Neuroscientist.
- Alternative career choice: Pianist/songwriter.
- I tend to approach life: With a sense of humor.
- Biggest misconceptions about me or my work: That scientists are always serious. I love to look at the lighter side of life and have a good laugh.
- Worst part-time job ever: Dishwasher.
- Longest med school study session: Preparing for a basic medical neurology final.
- Best moment in medicine/research: When Dora Games asked me to come down to the lab to show that A-beta vaccine worked in the animal model.
Dale Schenk and Elan’s Scientific Approach to Alzheimer’s
Elan’s Chief Scientific Officer Dale Schenk, Ph.D., and other Elan scientists, have developed an approach to Alzheimer’s disease that centers on landmark basic research revealing that a protein called beta amyloid accumulates in the brains of people with the disease. The process by which this protein is generated, aggregates, and is ultimately deposited in the brain as plaques is often referred to as the amyloid cascade. The formation of beta amyloid plaque is thought to play a key role in the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease.
Mounting scientific evidence suggests that modulating the amyloid cascade may play a role in Alzheimer’s disease. Elan scientists are pursuing separate therapeutic approaches to disrupting three aspects of the beta amyloid cascade: Clearing existing beta amyloid from the brain, Preventing aggregation of beta amyloid in the brain, Preventing production of beta amyloid in the brain
The Phase 3 program for bapineuzumab is intended to provide safety and efficacy data to support the approval of bapineuzumab for treating patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. The program involves four randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies of approximately 4,000 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. Implications of Schenk’s Work for Parkinson’s.
Elan has several active early discovery efforts in Parkinson’s disease, guided by Dr. Schenk’s work in Alzheimer’s disease. Elan scientists are exploring multiple therapeutic strategies to tackle this poorly understood, devastating disease.
In January 2009, Dr. Schenk and others published new research in the Journal of Biological Chemistry about the discovery of a protein that may be involved in the modification of alpha-synuclein, a protein genetically linked to Parkinson’s disease and a key component in degenerating neurons in brain regions controlling movement. Alterations in alpha-synuclein are believed to play a critical role in Parkinson’s disease.
The normal function of alpha synuclein is unknown, but it can become modified under pathological conditions and form abnormal fibrils and inclusions known as Lewy bodies. Elan scientists are studying the nature of these modifications and, in the recently published paper, reported that the protein appeared to be a principle contributor to changes in the alpha-synuclein protein. Elan’s scientists are using experimental models of Parkinson’s disease to conduct tests to determine the involvement of the protein in the formation of Lewy bodies in brain tissue.
The Elan team is also studying parkin, a protein found in the brain that, like alpha-synuclein, has been genetically linked to Parkinson’s disease. Elan is exploring a number of therapeutic approaches to investigate the Parkinson’s disease process.