Dave Schubert has an undergraduate degree in chemistry and bacteriology from Indiana University, and a Ph.D. in immunology from UCSD. He was a co-founder of the neuroscience program at Salk, and large part of his early career was in the area of developmental neuroscience. Because many nerve cells are born and die during brain development as well in disease, his laboratory became interested in nerve cell models of CNS pathology that are associated with aging and neurodegeneration. These nerve cell death models were used to identify several growth and differentiation factors, some of which mediate disease, such as the amyloid precursor protein involved in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Glial Growth Factor, that is neuroprotective in Parkinson’s disease and was in patients as a therapeutic at one point. This work led to his ultimate focus on neurodegenerative diseases. He established the first medicinal chemistry laboratory at Salk, and with Dr. Pamela Maher, is making synthetic derivatives of neuroprotective plant natural products that have much improved medical, chemical and pharmacological properties over the parent compounds. These novel compounds, as well as the natural products from which they are derived, have been used both to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as AD, Parkinson’s and stroke in animals, but also to study the molecular basis of the disease process. One of the drug candidates, J147, will soon be in phase 1
clinical trials for AD. J147 also has profound anti-aging properties in mice, and is being used to study aging itself. It was recently discovered that several non-psychoactive cannabinoids are extremely neuroprotective in the AD drug screening assays and are potential AD drug candidates.