New approach to treating vascular disorders wins prize for Hebrew University researcher

May 29, 2003

A novel approach to development of drugs that treat vascular disorders without the disadvantageous effects of existing medications has won a Kaye Innovation Award for a researcher at the Hebrew University School of Pharmacy.

Dr. Abdullah Haj-Yehia, a graduate of the Hebrew University in both medicine and pharmacology, has been working for many years with nitric oxide-based compounds. Nitric oxide is the basic component in nitroglycerine, which has been used for some 130 years to ease heart pain. The disadvantage of nitroglycerine, explains Dr. Haj-Yehia, is that the body develops tolerance to it, thereby nullifying its effect, and it can cause cell mutations, leading to cancerous growth.

In his work with nitric oxide compounds, Dr. Haj-Yehia has developed superior formulations that do not have these detrimental effects, while retaining the beneficial, effects of relaxing blood vessels and also acting as an anti-oxidant. Over-oxidation in the vascular system is the process which leads to formulation of plaque within the blood vessels, thereby constricting the flow of blood, leading to blockages and ultimately heart attacks or stroke.

Cardiovascular disorders are the leading cause of death in Western society and are rapidly approaching this leading position worldwide, points out Dr. Haj-Yehia.

Oxon Medica Inc., a biopharmaceutical company based in San Francsico, Calif., was founded to develop drugs based on Dr. Haj-Yehia's inventions. The Hebrew University's Yissum Research Development Company is a part owner of the company. Oxon Medica is currently actively working on developing a drug to deal with glaucoma. Other developmental work is aimed at new drugs to treat several other diseases, such as angina, erectile dysfunction, hypertension, asthma and diabetes.

Dr. Haj Yedhia,46, was born in Taibe, Israel, and today lives in Neve Shalom with his wife and four children. Neve Shalom is a mixed Arab-Jewish community west of Jerusalem. In addition to his work as a lecturer and researcher at the Hebrew University, Dr. Haj-Yehia also works as a physician in the Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa. He is the winner of one of Israel's most prestigious awards, the Rothschild Prize.

The Kaye Innovation Awards at the Hebrew University have been awarded for the past ten years. Isaac Kaye of England, a prominent industrialist in the pharmaceutical industry, established the awards in 1994 to encourage faculty, staff, and students of the university to develop innovative methods and inventions with good commercial potential which have benefited or will benefit the university and society. The Kaye Innovation Awards at the Hebrew University were awarded Tuesday, May 27, during the 66th meeting of the University Board of Governors.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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