Development of a Novel Tracer for Imaging A-Synuclein in Vivo

Project details

Researchers: Victor Villemagne, MD and Kevin Barnham, PhD

Institution: The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health

Grant Title: Development of a novel tracer for imaging a-synuclein in vivo

Summary: The accumulation of aggregated alpha-synuclein in the brain is the pathological hallmark of Parkinson’s disease and is a frequent target for drugs being developed to treat PD. The ability to visualize alpha-syncuclein in the brain could be useful both as a biomarker of the presence of disease and disease progression and as a tool for drug development. The ultimate goal of this project is to develop a PET radiotracer to image the distribution of alpha-synuclein in the brain. Lead compounds that bind to alpha-synuclein will be optimized to modify certain features in order to improve selectivity and binding potency. Optimized compounds will be radiolabeled and tested in PD models. The deliverable for this funding period is one or more optimized compounds that show promise for use as a PET tracer and that will be ready for human testing in the near future.

Duration: One year


About Victor Villemagne

A/Prof Villemagne graduated Cum Laude in 1983. He was awarded a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Nuclear Medicine in 1984, and continued his post-graduate studies at the Division of Nuclear Medicine at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions under Henry N. Wagner, Jr. He subsequently furthered his molecular neuroimaging training at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH, and the University of Pittsburgh. He now holds the appointment of Senior Research Fellow in Neuroscience at the PET Centre, Austin Hospital.

Since 2003, he has performed several preclinical and clinical studies of new tracers for Aβ and tau imaging in animal transgenic models and in humans. He has experience with all available radiotracers and in all aspects of amyloid imaging while pioneering the field of tau imaging. A/Prof Villemagne is principal or co-investigator in several national and international grants. Currently, he holds a NHMRC Research Fellowship. His research involves national and international collaborations with neuroscientists, chemists, molecular biologists, clinical neurologists, molecular imaging experts. Reflecting the success of these collaborations he has authored or co-authored ten book chapters, several requested reviews on dementia imaging, and more than 200 original research publications, with senior or first author papers on molecular imaging research in leading international peer-reviewed journals, particularly in the field of neuroreceptor and amyloid imaging studies. He has been invited to chair and present at national and international meetings in the area of biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease and neurodegeneration. Among other honours, he has received the Foerderer Fund for Excellence Award from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in 2002, the JAAME Fellowship from Japan in 2007 and the ANSTO Nuclear Medicine Award in 2010. More recently, he received the de Leon Prize in Neuroimaging – Senior Scientist by The Alzheimer’s Association International Society to Advance Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment (Boston, USA, 7/2013), the Christopher Clark Award for the Continuing Advancement in the Field of Human Amyloid Imaging, (Miami, USA, 1/2014), and the EANM Springer Prize for Best Paper (Hamburg, Germany, 10/2015).