Charity Parkinson's UK is partnering with NRG Therapeutics Ltd to discover and develop a potential drug that could safeguard dopamine cells that are damaged by Parkinson's and slow down the progression of the condition.
Building on recent discoveries that show a direct link between mitochondrial dysfunction and the loss of dopamine cells, Parkinson's UK will invest up to £1 million in NRG Therapeutics to develop and translate this pioneering research into a potential therapeutic.
Mitochondria are the powerhouses of cells and help manage large amounts of calcium ions that continually flow into the cell when it is active, which can become toxic if not removed.
When mitochondria become overloaded with calcium and stop producing energy effectively, a pore in the mitochondria - known as the mitochondrial permeability transition pore - is opened. This starts the process of cell death, leading to the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells.
The initial investment in NRG Therapeutics from Parkinson's UK will support the identification of novel, small, molecules that are likely to enter the brain and protect the mitochondria within dopamine-producing cells.
If successful, these molecules will be tested in pre-clinical models of Parkinson's disease before progressing into small-scale human clinical trials to investigate their safety and potential benefits as a treatment.
Dr Arthur Roach, Director of Research at Parkinson's UK, who recently joined NRG Therapeutics as Non-Executive Director, said:
We all know there is a tremendous need to find better treatments for Parkinson's that can slow down the progression of the condition. This pioneering research could be the first step towards identifying molecules that can protect mitochondria within dopamine-producing cells. It is a privilege to be appointed to the board of NRG Therapeutics. I look forward to working with them as we strive to reach our goal of bringing forward better treatments and finding a cure for Parkinson's."
Dr Neil Miller, CEO of NRG Therapeutics, said:
NRG Therapeutics is committed to delivering new treatments for people affected by devastating neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and are delighted to have received this seed investment from Parkinson's UK's Virtual Biotech program.
We welcome this endorsement of our scientific strategy and look forward to partnering with Parkinson's UK in developing first-in-class molecules for the disease-modifying treatment of Parkinson's."
Parkinson's UK is the largest charitable funder of Parkinson's research in Europe.
The aim of its Virtual Biotech program, of which its partnership with NRG Therapeutics Ltd is a part, is to fast-track the most promising treatments with the potential to transform life for people with Parkinson's.