Prof. Bilha Fischer, Head of the Department of Chemistry, designs and develops drugs for the treatment of Type II diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, glaucoma, osteoarthritis, and inflammatory bowel diseases. Most of these drugs share common nucleotide scaffolds.
Their targets are either extracellular nucleotide metabolizing enzymes or purinergic receptors that are activated, or antagonized, by extracellular nucleotides. In her laboratory, Fischer has introduced changes into these nucleotides that make them more stable, and allow them to bind to specific targets – both qualities vital for effective drug interaction.
Fischer and her team have identified and synthesized protective agents that may minimize the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s. Unlike other potential drugs that target individual factors associated with this disease, Fischer’s protective agents are capable of addressing several drug targets at once.
In protein- and cell-based studies, Fischer has demonstrated how her protective agents work to prevent oxidative damage to neurons, as well as the pathological build-up of plaques in Alzheimer’s patients.
Fischer’s group has successfully identified safe and potent insulin secretagogues for the treatment of Type II diabetes.
The efficacy and potency of these P2Y1 receptor-selective ligands was demonstrated in animal studies of diabetic mice and rats, conducted in collaboration with a pharmaceutical company. In these animal models, the compounds were found to be a superior and safer alternative to current insulin secretagogues for reducing glycemia to normal levels and reducing the risk of hypoglycemia.
Fischer’s team has also designed highly efficacious drug candidates for the treatment of glaucoma. In animal studies, these nucleotide-analogues reduced intraocular pressure by 45%, through activation of P2 receptors (P2R), In comparison to the leading drug treatment, timolol maleate, which is contraindicated for patients suffering from cardiovascular problems, diabetes, or asthma, these analogues were found to be promising alternatives for the treatment of ocular hypertension and glaucoma.
Fischer and her group also develop novel fluorescent probes and methodologies for the early detection and identification of certain types of breast cancer.These methods for mRNA analysis within living cells are expected to be specific, simple, fast, sensitive, and cost-effective for the accurate diagnosis of breast cancer required for personalized therapy.