Robert Thorne, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, UW–Madison School of Pharmacy
About the talk
Protein and gene therapies for neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, brain cancer, and stroke have been limited by two related, yet distinct problems. The first concerns the difficulty associated with delivering these potential therapeutics to the brain across several specialized barriers that exist between the bloodstream and brain fluids. The second concerns the uncertainty surrounding what happens on the brain side of these barriers once a substance is able to pass them. Surprisingly, we still have a lot to learn regarding both of these problems — particularly for the large molecules and viral gene therapy vectors that are the focus of Thorne’s laboratory. His group takes a highly multidisciplinary approach to looking at drug delivery to the brain that spans the fields of pharmaceutics, neuroscience, biophysics, engineering, and structural biology. Ultimately, his team aims to leverage deep knowledge of physiology and central nervous system structure with state-of-the-art imaging methods to identify new ways to effectively deliver drugs to the brain and to better understand how endogenous proteins such as antibodies distribute themselves within the central nervous system. Thorne’s talk will cover this work, providing an overview of the brain, its complex environment, the highly specialized barriers that guard it from blood-borne molecules, and recent research into how we might overcome the brain’s many defenses to develop better therapeutics for the treatment of neurological disorders.
About the speaker
Thorne is a KL2 scholar in the Institute for Clinical and Translational Research and a trainer in the Neuroscience Training Program and several other programs at UW–Madison. He is involved in teaching six graduate and professional-level courses at UW–Madison, including systems neuroscience, drug delivery, physiologic concepts in pharmacokinetics, and research ethics. In addition, Thorne serves on the editorial board of Fluids and Barriers of the CNS and is a founder and council/steering committee member of the International Brain Barriers society.