Israeli Scientists En Route to Personalized MS Medicine

Technion, Weizmann and Teva scientists, continuing the success of the Israeli anti-MS drug Copaxone, may have found the way to personalize it.

Hillel Fendel,

Scientists from the Technion in Haifa, Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, and Teva Pharmaceuticals, continuing the success of the Israeli anti-MS drug Copaxone, may have found the way to personalize it according to one's genes.

Copaxone is widely considered the most effective treatment in preventing or reducing relapses in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).  The drug molecule was the fruit of research by Weizmann Institute's Prof. Michael Sela, who later became the institute's president, and his colleagues Prof. Ruth Arnon and Dr. Dvora Teitelbaum.  Israel's top drug company, Teva, developed Copaxone for the treatment of the disease, and produces and markets it in over 40 countries worldwide.

Copaxone was the first original Israeli drug to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

MS is an autoimmune disease causing impaired vision and movement disorders, in which the body’s immune system attacks proteins in the fatty layer surrounding nerve fibers.  These attacks prevent the conductance of electrical signals through the nerve fibers. Prof. Sela used synthetic molecules designed by his teacher and future President of Israel, Prof. Ephraim Katzir, to curb the attacks.

Medical treatments in general rely on trial-and-error methods to determine the correct dosage, often leading to errors and complications along the way.  Scientists from Teva performed tests at Weizmann Institute, using Israel's only genome-variation scanning equipment, to determine specific genetic markers and their link with the patient's response to Copaxone.

Prof. Doron Lancet of Weizmann's Department of Molecular Genetics says, “We analyzed the DNA sequences in 27 candidate genes from each patient participating in the trial, and we identified two genes with a high potential for determining the response to Copaxone. In the future, it may be possible to use this method to scan the genome of MS sufferers, to predict the response levels in advance, and to optimize the dosage and treatment protocol to suit each patient personally.”