One Man’s Quest to Treat Brain Diseases

December 2, 2010
By: Jennifer Frey

Technion Prof. Emeritus Moussa Youdim was awarded the 2010 EMET Prize for his Contributions to Brain Science in the category of Life Sciences, at a ceremony held in Jerusalem on November 24. The $1 million EMET Prize, which will be shared by seven other scientists, is sponsored by the A.M.N. Foundation for the Advancement of Science, Art and Culture in Israel to recognize academic and professional achievements that have a far-reaching influence on society.

Prof. Youdim is internationally renowned for his development of drugs to treat depressive illnesses and neurodegenerative diseases. Together with Technion Prof. John Finberg and in conjunction with Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Youdim developed rasagiline, marketed as Azilect, the only anti-Parkinson’s drug that has proven to have a disease-modifying effect.

Prof. Moussa Youdim

Prof. Moussa Youdim

Along with Hebrew University’s Prof. Marta Weinstock-Rosin, he also developed a new anti-Alzheimer’s drug called Ladostigil, which is believed to slow the progression of the disease. While prior anti-Alzheimer’s drugs provided just symptomatic relief, he says: “we believe that (Ladostigil) will be able to treat the disease and not only the symptoms.” Developed by Teva but currently owned Avraham Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Ladostigil entered Phase II clinical trials in Europe in November.

Prof. Youdim is also working with colleagues at the Technion’s Alfred Mann Institute for Biomedical Development on a new drug, derived from Azilect, to protect the heart, and has recently co-published a paper about a treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. “I work harder than ever before, even though officially I am retired,” he recently told a reporter at The Jerusalem Post.

Born in Iran and educated in England and Canada, Prof. Youdim came to Haifa in 1977 to launch the pharmacology department in the Technion Faculty of Medicine. Youdim, who holds more than 100 international patents in neuropsychiatric and cardiovascular drugs, chaired the department until 1994 when he moved on to direct the Technion’s Eve Topf and U.S. National Parkinson Foundation Centers of Excellence for Neurodegenerative Diseases Research and Teaching.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is Israel’s leading science and technology university. Home to the country’s first winners of the Nobel Prize in science, it commands a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in nanotechnology, computer science, biotechnology, water-resource management, materials engineering, aerospace and medicine. The majority of the founders and managers of Israel’s high-tech companies are alumni. Based in New York City, the American Technion Society (ATS) is the leading American organization supporting higher education in Israel, with offices around the country.