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"IURTC has been indispensable to us—providing assistance to file for intellectual property rights and achieve patent status."

Portrait of Professor Michael Kubek, whose research into medicating the brain via nanoparticles has important implications for Alzheimer's, epilepsy, depression, and traumatic brain injuries.

Michael Kubek, Associate Professor of Neurobiology

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Michael Kubek

Professor of Neurobiology

Over the past 30 years, scientists have synthesized a series of neuropeptides (like those occurring naturally in the brain) that offer huge potential for treating neurological diseases—from depression to Alzheimer’s. But there’s a problem: these neuropeptides are metabolized on their way to the brain. Working at the IU School of Medicine, Professor Michael Kubek and collaborators have come up with a new way to deliver neuropeptides—directly through the nose to the brain using nanoparticles that biodegrade at a rate proportional to the delivery of the drug.

The results are promising. IURTC has helped Professor Kubek and his team file for and receive a patent for their discoveries. They have also received funding from Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE), since maintaining a constant level of medication in the brain is especially critical in treating seizure disorders. Professor Kubek is also working with researchers in the Indiana Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and at several other university to plan clinical trials of the nanoparticles in treating infantile spasms, a rare, uncontrollable form of epilepsy.

“We know that administering neuropeptides either orally or by injection doesn’t work well,” observes Professor Kubek. “Therefore, we’ve put the neuropeptide into a nanoparticle that is sprayed directly into the nasal cavity. As the nanoparticle moves into the brain, it biodegrades from the surface, but the neuropeptide stays intact— thus providing protection and the desired dose to the brain.”

Professor Kubek is also collaborating with polymer chemists in the School of Pharmacy at Purdue University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to synthesize the polymer and drug matrix so it releases at a controlled rate. The Department of Defense is interested in this novel therapeutic approach to treat soldiers on the battlefield who have suffered traumatic brain injury. “Even while the patient is unconscious, we can deliver neuropeptides via nasal spray to help prevent seizures and other side effects related to brain trauma,” says Professor Kubek.

Now he is exploring the possibility of forming his own company, using a business model developed through the Kelley School of Business and IURTC. With this combination of expertise—translational research, technology transfer, and business—there’s hope that patients will soon benefit from neuropeptide drugs delivered at a rate to make them optimally effective.

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