Short description of Prof. Schwab's talk topic:
As a by-chance observation, a membrane protein was found in spinal cord and brain tissue which strongly inhibits the growth and regeneration of nerve fibers. Neutralization of this protein by antibodies enhanced regeneration of injured nerve fibers in the rat spinal cord and brain, as well as recovery of lost functions. Development and optimization of a human antibody against human Nogo-A required the close collaboration with biotech companies. The subsequent steps of clinical trial planning and the conduction of a Phase 1 and the decisive proof-of-concept Phase 2 clinical trial was based on the collaboration with dedicated clinical colleagues at Balgrist University Hospital and a multinational European network of leading spinal cord injury centers. Anti-Nogo-A antibodies are currently in a clinical Phase 2 trial in tetraplegic acute spinal cord injured patients.
Martin E. Schwab is Professor of Neuroscience at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine of the University of Zurich, em.Prof. at the Dept. of Health Sciences and Technology of ETH Zurich, and founder and President of the UZH spin-off company Novago Therapeutics Inc. He studied biology in Basle, was postdoc at Harvard Medical School and the Max-Planck Institute of Psychiatry (Munich) before joining the Brain Research Institute of the University of Zurich as professor and co-director in 1985. His research focuses on the mechanisms of structural and functional plasticity and repair of the injured brain and spinal cord. He pioneered the concept of specific inhibitors of neurite growth as a cause of the absent regeneration of injured fiber tracts in the brain and spinal cord. With his group he isolated the membrane protein Nogo-A and showed that Nogo-A neutralization leads to fiber regeneration, enhanced plasticity and functional recovery after spinal cord or brain injuries in adult rats and monkeys. These results led to currently on-going clinical trials.