On October 1, 2013 the UAB Research Foundation became a part of the UAB Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE). The IIE was approved by the UAB Board of Trustees in February 2013. The Research Foundation, which managed intellectual property created by the UAB community, will now have an expanded presence, and operate as the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The Institute will serve to create and foster an entrepreneurial and innovative ecosystem integrating the UABRF’s existing strengths and capabilities, enhancing and facilitating service and technology commercialization. The mission will include engagement of faculty in creating new classroom and experiential learning opportunities for students across campus, as well as, encourage and cultivate interdisciplinary scholarly research and publication among faculty and clinicians, and serve as the resource center for UAB as it continues to advance its role in innovation and entrepreneurship. The Institute will provide an entry point for industries seeking to collaborate with this world class university. Read more about the IIE.

 

In The News at UAB

  • Study shows generic drugs match brand name drugs in treatment of epilepsy
    More evidence that generic medications are as effective as brand name drugs.

    A new multisite study shows that two approved generic medications for epilepsy had no detectable difference in clinical effects when compared to their brand name counterpart. The findings were published this week in an advance online edition ofthe Lancet Neurology.

    The study, led by investigators at the University of Cincinnati, looked at two generics for the drug lamotrigine, a prescription antiepileptic medication. The University of Alabama at Birmingham was one of eight institutions involved in the study, which showed that, as long as patients adhere to treatment, the two generics did not show any difference in their bioequivalence.

    “Consequently, it should give increased confidence to both clinicians and patients that existing regulations are providing generic drugs that can be safely substituted, even in cases where medicine is lifesaving,” said Michael Privitera, M.D., professor in the Department of Neurology, director of the Epilepsy Center at the University of Cincinnati Neuroscience Institute and the study’s lead author. “Patients can now feel safe about substituting generics (of their antiepileptic drug) without concerns of interactions or undesired effects.”

    The study included 35 adult patients with epilepsy who currently take lamotrigine, and looked at long-term dosing using two currently on-market epileptic generic drugs. The researchers took measures to ensure treatment adherence, a factor that can affect long-term trials. This trial used patient diaries, electronic medication monitoring and tablet counts to keep adherence to nearly 100 percent. The study found that patients on generics had no increase in seizure risk, nor an increase in side effects.

    “There is now increasing evidence that there is no significant difference between generic medications and brand name medications for most conditions.”

    “This study should change how the medical community and patients view generic medications,” said Jerzy Szaflarski, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Neurology at UAB and director of the UAB Epilepsy Center in the School of Medicine. “There is now increasing evidence that there is no significant difference between generic medications and brand name medications for most conditions.”

    The need for effective generics is essential to some patients who need daily medication to treat serious conditions like epilepsy. The FDA estimates $230 billion per year is saved by generic substitutions.

    Along with the University of Cincinnati and UAB, the study’s co-authors included researchers from Drake University, University of Madison-Wisconsin, University of Kansas Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, University of Pennsylvania, the office of research for the Food and Drug Administration, and the University of Rochester.

    This study was funded by the American Epilepsy Society, Epilepsy Foundation, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Privitera is president of the American Epilepsy Society. He does not cite any conflicts of interest.

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UAB Research News

  • REGARDS data show diabetics who use verapamil have lower glucose levels
    Lead author of paper published in Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice journal says, while causal relationship cannot be inferred, findings are “absolutely encouraging.”

    A new University of Alabama at Birmingham research paper published in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice shows for the first time that there is an association of verapamil use and lower fasting glucose levels in humans with diabetes. It is a promising finding at UAB, where the Comprehensive Diabetes Center is currently conducting a first-of-its-kind, JDRF-funded clinical trial using verapamil, a drug that researchers in the School of Medicine have shown completely reverses the disease in mice models.

    Yulia Khodneva M.D., Ph.D., a research associate and postdoctoral scholar in UAB’s Division of Preventive Medicine and junior member of the Comprehensive Diabetes Center, examined the association of calcium channel blockers and verapamil use with fasting serum glucose among almost 5,000 adults with diabetes who were part of the REGARDS study. The Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke project, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, is a national study focusing on learning more about the factors that increase a person’s risk of having cardiovascular disease.

    The sample of diabetic adults included 1,484 calcium channel blocker users, of whom 174 were verapamil users. The findings showed that calcium channel blocker users had 5 mg/dL lower serum glucose compared to non-users. Verapamil users had on average 10 mg/dL lower serum glucose compared to calcium channel blocker non-users. And the numbers showed a substantially greater difference among insulin users who also took verapamil. Verapamil users who took insulin in combination with oral medication had a 24 mg/dL lower serum glucose, and verapamil users who took insulin alone to manage their diabetes showed a 37 mg/dL lower serum glucose.

    “This is a cross-sectional observational study unlike the current prospective randomized UAB verapamil clinical trial, so we can’t infer causal relationship between using verapamil and lower glucose levels; but we can say there is an association with lower glucose levels, and that is absolutely encouraging,” Khodneva said.

    About the verapamil clinical trial

    • Recruitment for the UAB verapamil clinical trial began in early 2015.
    • The trial will enroll 52 people between the ages of 19 and 45 within three months of receiving a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. MORE ENROLLEES ARE NEEDED.
    • Patients enrolled will be randomized to receive verapamil or a placebo for one year while continuing with their insulin pump therapy.
    • Patients will receive a continuous glucose monitoring system that will enable them to measure their blood sugar 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
    • Talk to your primary care physician if you are experiencing excessive thirst, excessive urination or unwanted weight loss in association with fatigue.
    • For more information or to enroll, contact UAB at 205-934-4112 or T1DM@uab.edu. To speak to a physician, contact Fernando Ovalle, M.D., at 205-934-4171.
    • Support this and other diabetes research at UAB by visiting the Comprehensive Diabetes Center.

    Khodneva says the findings in the final subgroup, which used insulin alone and included participants who had mostly Type 1 or severe Type 2 diabetes, were quite striking.

    “The change in glucose for that group compared to those not taking verapamil — 37 mg/dL — is almost four times higher than when you look at the whole sample of diabetic adults,” Khodneva said. “That made us think that verapamil is predominantly active for participants who have Type 1 diabetes or those with Type 2 diabetes who have really damaged beta cells. There seems to be something that works on the structural level, especially for those who have stronger beta-cell damage.”

    “Dr. Khodneva has done a tremendous job analyzing these large data sets and discovering for the first time that verapamil use is associated with lower glucose levels in patients with diabetes,” said Anath Shalev, M.D., director of UAB’s Comprehensive Diabetes Center and principal investigator of the verapamil clinical trial. “Strikingly, the observed difference in glucose levels is comparable to an approximately 1 percent reduction in HbA1C and to what would be expected from the addition of an approved diabetes drug. Moreover, the large difference in glucose levels especially in the groups taking insulin is consistent with our underlying hypothesis that verapamil promotes functional beta-cell mass.”

    UAB announced its verapamil clinical trial in November 2014 and began enrolling patients in January 2015. The first results that will assess verapamil’s effectiveness on Type 1 diabetes are still approximately 18 months away.

    The trial is testing an approach different from any current diabetes treatment by focusing on promoting pancreatic beta cells, which produce insulin the body needs to control blood sugar. UAB scientists have proved through years of research that high blood sugar causes the body to overproduce a protein called TXNIP, which is increased within the beta cells in response to diabetes, but had never previously been known to be important in beta-cell biology. Too much TXNIP in the pancreatic beta cells leads to their death and thwarts the body’s efforts to produce insulin, thereby contributing to the progression of diabetes.

    But UAB scientists have also uncovered that verapamil, which is widely used to treat high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat and migraine headaches, can lower TXNIP levels by decreasing calcium concentration in the beta cells — to the point that, when mouse models with established diabetes and blood sugars above 300 milligrams per deciliter were treated with verapamil, the disease was eradicated. See an animation of how this works here.

    The trial will enroll 52 people between the ages of 18 and 45 who are within three months of receiving a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. More than 20 people have enrolled so far, and more participants are needed. For more information or to enroll, contact UAB at 205-934-4112 or T1DM@uab.edu.

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