Drug Development & Disease Diagnostics

150 Signet Drive
Weston ON M9L 1T9

Area of Research

Michael Spino’s research is focused on the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of iron chelators, compounds that remove iron from the body, and their potential use in preventing neurological damage. Spino is also the founding president of ApoPharma, a pharmaceutical company focused on developing drugs for hematological and neurodegenerative conditions in which iron may play a role.

Research Challenge

Iron is one of the few substances that the body cannot eliminate on its own, except through bleeding. A build-up of iron in cells can be toxic, causing damage in the liver, heart and brain. This damage often occurs in people who receive a lot of blood through transfusions, a condition known as transfusional iron overload.

However, in a number of rare genetic conditions, the body is unable to process iron properly and deposits the mineral in a cell or organelle, causing a toxic build-up of iron that leads to neurodegeneration. The same process may also occur in neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and multiple sclerosis. In all of these conditions, iron chelators (compounds that remove iron from the body) may help to prevent neuronal damage caused by the body’s aberrant handling of iron.

Proposed Solution

Through Spino’s academic and industry research, he and his team develop compounds to prevent iron-induced neuronal damage. They use genetic and induced animal models, as well as human studies, to test the effectiveness of these compounds.

He and his team first evaluated deferiprone, a compound developed to treat thalassemia, for its effectiveness in preventing iron-induced damage in neurological conditions. This compound is now being tested in clinical trials of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). They have also synthesized approximately 300 compounds to improve the effectiveness of iron chelation, and have tested these compounds in preclinical studies.

Impact To Date

Spino’s complementary academic and industry research, as well as collaborations with research teams around the world, have advanced the use of iron chelators as a treatment approach for some neurological conditions. His team has led clinical trials testing the iron chelator deferiprone for its effectiveness in treating the iron-associated neurodegeneration found in Alzheimer’s disease, Parksinson’s disease and ALS.

Spino has published a number of papers on the topic of iron chelation and neurodegeneration. As a founding president of ApoPharma, he is actively involved in both the science and business aspects of the company.