The Stroke Doc
is the story of this one stubborn doctor and his little drug company that could.
More than a decade ago, Dr. Mike Tymianski and his researchers discovered a drug they called Nerinetide (NA-1), a small protein that seemed to be able to help the brain “hold its breath” during a stroke, preventing the worst of the damage. In other words it had potential to buy stroke patients time. Now the challenge was to prove it. They had to find a safe and effective way to test Nerinetide (NA-1) on the very people who needed it most—stroke victims. Many drug companies have tried before. They all failed. Would Dr. Mike be any different?
What is a stroke?
A stroke happens when—for whatever reason—blood stops flowing to the brain. Accident, age, a sudden inexplicable event—strokes can come on suddenly and with no warning, like a brush fire, burning over a million brain cells per minute. Within an hour of experiencing a stroke your brain can lose as many neurons as it does in more than three and a half years of normal aging. And those cells are dead forever. For the stroke victim, every passing second without intervention means more debilitating neurological damage, permanent disability, or even death.
THE JOURNEY OF A DRUG
Medical researchers have long expected based on studies in animals that a stroke drug, or a neuroprotectant, administered in a timely fashion, could lessen or prevent the damage done by stroke, save countless lives and even perhaps be worth a fortune. It might even win a Nobel Prize. Over the years, many pharmaceutical companies have spent untold billions of dollars trying to create just such a drug. But it has always come down to testing those drugs—something that has proved nearly impossible. Until now.
Mike Tymianski is a renowned neurosurgeon and senior scientist at the University of Toronto, in addition to being a Canada Research Chair in Translational Stroke Research. But the final stage of human trials turned into an ongoing test not only of his team and his brave patients but his own patience as well. But he was always in it for the long haul.