It was our third most popular article in 2018, and it’s not hard to understand why: “One drug could treat Alzheimer, MS, Crohn’s disease and more”  captured the attention of readers around the world.

“I received quite a high number of mails, mostly from patients or relatives of patients, for instance families of Alzheimer’s patients,” says Prof. David Naor of the Lautenberg Center for Immunology and Cancer Research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Medicine.

Naor has spent more than a decade researching a peptide of five amino acids (called 5-MER) that neutralizes the pathological amyloid proteins associated with some incurable inflammatory and neuro degenerative diseases.

The IP-protected peptide is being developed with the support of grants from the university’s Yissum technology-transfer company, the Israeli government, Spherium Biomed of Spain and Israeli pharmaceutical company Galmed.

The four diseases Naor has been researching in connection with 5-MER– Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis — all share pathological amyloid proteins,which are targeted by the potential peptide drug, he tells ISRAEL21c.

After our article was published on February 11, 2018, Naor received a $5,000 donation that he is using toward further research. “The donor’s wife suffers from Alzheimer’s disease,” he explains. The American donor told Naor that he hopes to make an additional contribution in the future.

Several other potential investors contacted Naor as well. These were very welcome, since financial backing is critical to moving the drug development forward, especially in the fields of Alzheimer’s and MS.

These two diseases, he explains, “are not very attractive for some companies, because human studies are expensive, the potential market is competitive, or they have a lower chance of ending with a successful product. To this end, I am encouraged by receiving a grant a year ago from the US National Multiple Sclerosis Society to support our MS studies. However, this is not enough.”

Yissum recently signed a contract with an Israeli biotechnology company that plans to advance the peptide to human clinical studies (phase 1) within 12 months and then initiate a proof of concept phase 2 a study shortly thereafter.

This will be of interest to the many readers who sent Naor requests to be included in future clinical trials.

“Some are so in despair that they asked for immediate help, thinking that my peptide could help,” Naor says.

“I explain that this is just in preclinical stage and it will take time until we reach clinical trials. They need to wait patiently or seek an existing alternative drug, because at this stage my drug cannot help them. I also explain it is impossible to develop more than one disease at a time with this peptide. However, success in one disease – say, Crohn’s — may accelerate the medical translation for the other diseases.”

Naor says he was particularly touched by one of the 14 inquiries he received from Crohn’s patients. “This was from a very young man who is suffering so much from the pain and is so discouraged by the lack of a cure, that he is suicidal.”

To those who are skeptical of his or similar research projects, Naor says: “It is always better to try than to do nothing; if we listen to skepticism rather than vision, medicine could never make any progress.”