Digging deeper: our stories

Protecting nerve cells

A new Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center project identified several compounds that protect nerve cells from injury. After further development, these compounds may result in new medicines to treat neurodegenerative diseases — improving the lives of millions.


As part of a five year award from the National Institutes of Health, the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center has been helping researchers from all over the country identify compounds that may prevent or reverse neurodegeneration.

A recent project came from Don Lo and colleagues at Duke University. This team had studied a particular enzyme, called EphB3, that plays a role in the cascade of events leading to neurodegeneration. By screening thousands of molecules, the NeuroDiscovery Center’s Laboratory for Drug Discovery in Neurodegeneration identified several compounds that inhibit the function of EphB3. One of these inhibitors was found to protect nerve cells from damage. The compound provides an invaluable starting point for drug development.

About the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center

Established in 2001 by Dr. Joseph Martin (Dean of Harvard Medical School, 1997-2007), the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center is a pioneering biomedical research group focused on ending suffering from neurodegenerative diseases. By drawing on the intellectual strength and proven capability of the Harvard medical community and colleagues throughout the world, the NeuroDiscovery Center has developed a unique approach to understanding and treating these devastating diseases. 

Our focus:

  • Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and other degenerative diseases of the brain.

  • Combining academic creativity with a business-like approach to ensure a focused and efficient effort to advance the search for cures.

  • Accelerating the pace of progress, from scientific discoveries to meaningful patient treatments.

  • Real collaboration across the Harvard Medical community, prominent research centers worldwide and the private sector.

  • Applying discoveries about one neurodegenerative disease to better understand the others. 

Whereas our ultimate goal is simple — to improve the lives of the millions who face the physical, emotional, and economic burden of neurodegenerative diseases — these diseases represent a far too complex and urgent problem for any one group to tackle. To date, we have engaged over 800 researchers in a growing portfolio of outcome-directed research programs. For visionary philanthropists and scientists, participation in the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center's work offers the best hope for progress — please join us!

As of December 2010, the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center has 934 members from various institutions within the Medical area. The chart below lists the primary affiliations of our members: