A new approach in Alzheimer's Research
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Diane Van Alstyne, Ph.D. - CEO and founder

Diane Van Alstyne, Ph.D., is the founder and CEO of Septa Therapeutics, Inc. and received her doctorate in Molecular Biology at UCSD La Jolla. She was a post-doctoral fellow in biochemistry at McGill University, and then joined UBC Vancouver, as an Assistant Professor in Medicine/Neurology, where she published extensively on the topic: chronic rubella virus (RV) infection in the central nervous system.

While at UBC, Diane:

  • identified 2 mechanisms of persistent RV infection

  • identified a mechanism of restricted viral replication in cells in the CNS which accounts for the protracted gap between infection and the onset of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) symptoms where a viral etiology is suspected. This work contributed directly to Don Paty’s (UBC) future involvement in clinical trials of beta interferon, the first drug developed for use in MS, and

  • proposed a new theory for the origin of the prion, the agent responsible for “mad cow disease” (BSE) and Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD) in humans.

After going to Neuroimmunology at the NIH as an invited Visiting Scientist, where she constructed the first monoclonal antibodies to RV, she returned to Vancouver and founded Insight Biotek Inc. (IBI). It was Diane's highly unorthodox use of a monoclonal antibody directed against RV to detect a common, cross-reacting septapeptide in both meningitis-causing bacteria and viruses that led to the discovery of IBI’s platform technology. As CEO of IBI she has used this technology to initiate the development of a new diagnostic test for bacterial meningitis and patented technology for a new “universal” (one-shot-does-all) vaccine against bacterial meningitis.

Diane has recently used the previous platform technology to identify the “trigger” that initiates the events which lead ultimately to AD symptoms. As the founder and CEO of Septa Therapeutics Inc., she is devoting her time exclusively to the development of a new therapeutic for the effective treatment of AD.

One new, exciting development in this field is Cressida Madigan's new Zebra fish animal model for rapid screening of new drug candidates.

Research Partner: Cressida Madigan, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor, UCSD, California

After graduating Harvard, Cressida joined the faculty at UCSD, La Jolla where she is using genetic and imaging tools to study mechanisms of infection-mediated inflammation and neurologic injury. Her work focuses on the Mycobacteria that cause leprosy in peripheral nerves as well as tuberculosis-associated meningitis in the central nervous system. In each disease, she is interested in understanding how the microbe regulates inflammation within the nervous system and how that inflammation subsequently destroys the cells of the nervous system and changes their function.

One of the really fascinating things Cressida is finding about these exotic infectious diseases is that they activate the same inflammatory pathways that are activated in the brain of someone who has Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis. The way that inflammation works in the nervous system seems to be similar between these infections and common neurodegenerative conditions of humans. So, what is learned from studying these mycobacterial infections may be broadly applicable to understanding many human neuro-inflammatory conditions.

Cressida's approach to studying neurodegeneration and the effects of drugs to treat this dangerous condition is to use Zebra fish as the model for direct observation since these animals are "glass-like", or, completely optically transparent. That makes possible subcellular confocal imaging of microbes interacting with the nervous system or the immune system at any site within the animal while it’s alive. Such imaging can provide time-lapse movies of microbes infecting the brain and changing the function of different cells within the brain. It will also be an essential tool in the rapid, inexpensive screening of new drug candidates for efficacy in an animal model, for pre-clinical evaluations.

Zebrafish have been used in neuroscience for decades and there’s an increasing use of them in immunology, but Cressida is the first to bring together both the neuroscience and the immunology tools in this animal model. This novel approach is revolutionizing our approach to studying neurodegeneration by giving us this unprecedented view of neurological infections that is not available in any other model organism.

Drew Makepeace - Technical Support

Drew Makepeace provides technical support for Septa Therapeutics including document graphics for manuscripts and posters and web design and layout.

James J. Mullen III, Ph.D. - patent attorney at Morrison & Foerster

Morrison & Foerster LLP specializes in intellectual property in the fields of biotechnology, immunology, vaccines and pharmaceutical formulations and is based in San Diego, California.

Christopher M. Lennon - corporate counsel

Christopher Lennon, of LennonAllen LLP, Vancouver, BC, is now representing Septa Therapeutics. In addition to his many other activities, he is also corporate counsel to the University of British Columbia, handling all tech transfers to industry.