Biogen step in to take forward promising gene-based drugs for Parkinson’s

Major pharmaceutical company Biogen is investing $1billion to take LRRK2 inhibitors into large scale clinical trials in 2021.

US pharmaceutical company, Biogen, has partnered with biotech, Denali Therapeutics, to accelerate the development of promising drugs for Parkinson’s. The drugs target the LRRK2 gene, with clinical trials planned to start in 2021. 

Parkinson’s is usually not a genetic condition, but changes in a gene called LRRK2 are the most common genetic cause. These changes make LRRK2 hyperactive and this overactivity causes problems inside dopamine-producing brain cells that ultimately lead to their death.

New treatments that can correct this hyperactivity hold huge promise for slowing or stopping Parkinson’s. And current research suggests that treatments that target LRRK2 could benefit people with and without changes in this gene.

Clinical trials coming next year

Denali and Biogen are preparing to test the drug - called DNL151 - in two separate Parkinson’s studies: 

  • in people with LRRK2 mutations
  • in people who have a sporadic (non-inherited) form of the condition 

They hope to begin recruiting participants to these studies in 2021. We do not know yet whether these studies will be open to people in the UK. 

DNL151 has already been tested in early stage trials in healthy people and people with Parkinson’s and appears to be safe and tolerable.

You can read Fiona’s personal experience of taking part in one of these studies on our blog

Dr Arthur Roach, Director of Research at Parkinson's UK, said: 

"It is hugely encouraging to see pharma and biotech companies so committed to working together to develop groundbreaking new treatments for Parkinson's. 

“Developments like this are only made possible by genetic and biochemical research funded by charities like Parkinson's UK.  

“We must keep our foot on the accelerator to bring forward more new treatments, addressing all aspects of Parkinson's.”

Find opportunities to take part in research

There are many studies underway across the UK that need people with and without Parkinson’s. From home-based questionnaires, to trialling new treatment approaches, you can make a difference by taking part.