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Dr. William Matthew Tapped to Lead NINDS Office of Translational Research


For release: Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dr. William Matthew

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health, has named William D. Matthew, Ph.D., as director of its Office of Translational Research (OTR).

Dr. Matthew will lead the Institute’s efforts to translate the results of laboratory research into treatments for neurological disorders. Dr. Matthew was formerly Vice President of R&D Partnering and Business Development at UCB, an international biopharmaceutical company based in Brussels. He holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and has served on the faculty of Harvard Medical School in Boston and Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

“Moving treatments for neurological disorders from the lab bench to the bedside is one of the most important missions of the NINDS and also our most formidable challenge,” said Story C. Landis, Ph.D., director of NINDS. “Dr. Matthew’s experience in academic research and in drug development – and especially his ability to bridge those two worlds – will energize and focus our translational research efforts.”

An untold number of potential therapeutic drugs disappear into a critical gap between academia and industry. Academia is the main source of insights into the mechanisms of disease – and hence insights into potential drug targets – but few academic scientists have the means to develop a drug. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies have the resources to formulate a drug and test it in clinical trials, but they cannot invest in a drug without some sign of market value.

The NINDS OTR aims to close this gap and accelerate drug development for neurological disorders. The OTR replaces the NINDS Office of Technology Development, and will build on NINDS’ existing programs in translational neuroscience research. Dr. Matthew was selected to lead the OTR because his career ranges from academic neuroscience research to all stages of the drug development process.

At the beginning of his career, Dr. Matthew helped pioneer the use of antibodies as tools for neuroscience research and as therapies for neurological disease. (Antibodies are a part of the body’s immune defenses, and work by attaching to foreign cells and marking them for destruction.) As a doctoral student at UCSF, Dr. Matthew developed antibodies that could be used to isolate and characterize proteins inside nerve cells. In the early 1980s, as a professor at Harvard Medical School, he was among the first to develop antibodies that modulate the function of proteins critical for neural activity.  Antibodies of this kind are now used to treat multiple sclerosis and are under investigation in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

In 1990, Dr. Matthew moved to Duke University Medical Center to help establish the Neurobiology Department, and in 1998, he became scientific director of The George and Jean Brumley Neonatal-Perinatal Research Institute within Duke’s Department of Pediatrics. The Institute’s primary mission is to “explore the basis for birth defects and neonatal injury of the brain and lungs and translate the findings into clinical practice.”

In 2001, Dr. Matthew was recruited to Schwarz Pharma,  a mid-sized German-based drug company. Dr. Matthew was integral to building Schwarz Biosciences, a new research and development division, which involved establishing the company’s first research labs, as well as partnering with academic labs and with other pharmaceutical companies. Schwarz Pharma grew substantially over the next six years, and was acquired by UCB in 2007. During his tenure there, Schwarz Pharma developed three new drug products for the  U.S. and European markets:

  • Neupro (rotigotine) – a skin patch for stable, continuous relief from the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Vimpat (lacosamide) – a drug for treatment-resistant epilepsy.
  • Toviaz  (fesoterodine) – a drug for symptomatic relief from overactive bladder.

As director of NINDS OTR, Dr. Matthew will oversee several NINDS initiatives that support translational research.  He also will play a key role in NIH-wide translational research initiatives.  These include the NINDS Cooperative Program in Translational Research which funds the preclinical optimization and testing of lead compounds into new drugs, and the NINDS Anticonvulsant Screening Program which has played a pivotal role in the discovery and development of drugs for epilepsy, including Vimpat.

Dr. Matthew is looking forward to bringing his diverse experiences to NINDS. “In the time since I began my career, neuroscientists have gained key insights into many neurological disorders, and created many opportunities for new treatments. My goal is to tap into the unique strengths of researchers, physicians, patient advocacy groups, and industry and government leaders so that we can turn those opportunities into realities,” he said.

The NINDS (www.ninds.nih.gov) is the nation’s leading funder of research on the brain and nervous system. The NINDS mission is to reduce the burden of neurological disease – a burden borne by every age group, by every segment of society, by people all over the world.  For more information about the NINDS Office of Translational Research, visit http://www.ninds.nih.gov/funding/areas/technology_development/.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

Reporters:  For more information, call 301-496-5924 or go to www.ninds.nih.gov/PressRequest/.

Last Modified August 7, 2009