Prizes for new therapeutic approach for Friedreich's ataxia and tumour vaccination at MedUni
(Vienna, 21 September 2010) Barbara Scheiber-Mojdehkar and Brigitte Sturm from the Centre of Pathobiochemistry and Genetics of MedUni Vienna have discovered a completely new therapeutic approach to treat the neurodegenerative disease Friedreich's ataxia, for which they were awarded the gold medal at the Korea International Women's Invention Exposition KIWIE 2010. The bronze medal went to the team of Erika Jensen-Jarolim for a vaccination against tumours. The prizes were conferred today by Federal Minister Dr. Beatrix Karl.
New therapeutic approach
Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) is a degenerative disease of the central nervous system and the most frequent hereditary form of these disturbances of movement coordination. As it progresses only very slowly, it is most often diagnosed at a relatively late point; to date there is no effective medication-based form of therapy.
All the more important is the discovery by Ao. Prof. Mag. Dr. Barbara Scheiber-Mojdehkar and Ass. Prof. Mag. Dr. Brigitte Sturm, both from the Institute of Medical Chemistry at the Centre of Pathobiochemistry and Genetics of MedUni Vienna. They have found that insufficient production of the mitochondrial protein frataxin, which leads to the disease, can be increased by treatment with erythropoietin.
Erythropoietin is a medication which has been used to treat anaemia for a long time, and the findings from several clinical studies with erythropoietin for the treatment of Friedreich's ataxia patients carried out in cooperation with the Medical University of Innsbruck, Division of Neurology, are very promising.
For this invention, which was taken up by MedUni Vienna and funded within the framework of the Uni:Invent programme, patent protection has been applied for in six countries to date, with several patents already granted. "This means that for the first time affected patients have the chance of causal therapy in which frataxin production can be boosted by erythropoietin treatment," says Scheiber-Mojdehkar, explaining the importance of this discovery.
Vaccination against tumours
No less important is the invention of the vaccination with mimotopes against tumours, which was made in a cooperation project between the Institute of Pathophysiology and Allergy Research and the Department of Medicine I.
This vaccination is based on mimotopes, small peptides which imitate a tumour antigen (in this case CEA - the carcinoembryonic antigen). By immunising individuals with the mimotope vaccine, immunoglobulins against CEA-positive tumour cells are induced that have cell-damaging potential. The intention is to treat patients in this way who have received all existing state-of-the-art therapies but where a minimal residual disease has possibly remained in their body. A vaccine given at that point in time would strengthen the natural immune defence and have a protective effect completely in terms of immunisation.
Responsible for the invention of this "tumour vaccine" are Univ. Prof. Dr. Erika Jensen-Jarolim, Dr. Kira Brämswig, PD Dr. Angelika Riemer, Univ. Prof. Dr. Otto Scheiner and Univ. Prof. Dr. Christoph Zielinski.