William Klein, PhD is a Professor of Neurobiology and Neurology at Northwestern University, as well as a co-founder of Acumen Pharmaceuticals. Formerly Director of Northwestern’s Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Neuroscience, Dr. Klein currently is a member of the university’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center and the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center. Dr. Klein and his colleagues have pioneered the concept that memory loss in Alzheimer’s Disease is initiated by soluble amyloid beta oligomers, small neurotoxins that target particular synapses and cause their functional and structural degeneration.
His research team at Northwestern has provided new insights into physiological synaptic signal transduction and cell biology, and more recently into the pathobiology of synapses in Alzheimer’s disease. In a seminal contribution, Dr. Klein’s team discovered that amyloid fibrils are not the only neurotoxins formed by Aβ peptide and likely not the most important ones: Aβ also generates small, soluble oligomers that are long-lived CNS neurotoxins capable of destroying the synaptic basis for memory and ultimately causing nerve cell death. Klein’s team established that toxic oligomers (also known as ADDLs) are a major feature of Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology through use of unique toxin-sensitive antibodies now under development for therapeutics. Their discovery that ADDLs are highly elevated in CSF of Alzheimer’s patients offers promise as a diagnostic biomarker.
After graduating from MIT in biology, Dr. Klein carried out predoctoral studies in protein biochemistry at UCLA with Paul Boyer (Nobel Prize, Chemistry) and postdoctoral studies in molecular neurobiology at the National Institutes of Health with Marshall Nirenberg (Nobel Prize, Physiology and Medicine).