Biotech company, NRG Therapeutics, has today announced an Innovate UK award to continue its drug development project, supported by the Parkinson's Virtual Biotech, into life-changing new treatments.
The highly competitive Biomedical Catalyst award, part-funded by the government-backed agency Innovate UK, will fund the work needed to progress a new treatment with the potential to slow or stop neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson's and motor neurone disease.
Since 2019, Parkinson's UK has been supporting the Cambridge-based biotech, investing in this pioneering research through the Parkinson's Virtual Biotech programme. NRG's work has also received grant funding from the Michael J. Fox Foundation in the past.
From seed funding to significant progress
Through the Virtual Biotech, Parkinson's UK is plugging the funding gap and fast-tracking projects which have the greatest scientific potential to deliver life-changing treatments in years, not decades. In just 5 years we’ve built a diverse portfolio of 9 active projects, spanning the research pipeline from drug discovery to clinical trials.
The innovative approach, where the Virtual Biotech provides seed funding for promising research, helps stop progress from stalling due to a lack of external funders. It also drives forward the development of much needed new treatments for people with Parkinson's.
This new award highlights the significant progress that has been made to date by the NRG team. It will enable the project to complete the necessary steps ready to enter clinical trials.
New molecules that could slow or stop Parkinson's
NRG Therapeutics is developing new drug-like molecules that target the energy-producing mitochondria and calcium levels inside brain cells.
We know when brain cells are active, calcium ions flow into the cell. But too much calcium can be toxic. As well as producing the energy that cells need to function, mitochondria also regulate the concentration of calcium ions so they can't damage cells.
Recently, researchers have discovered a direct link between mitochondria and the loss of brain cells in Parkinson’s. When mitochondria become overloaded with calcium, a pore in the mitochondria, known as the permeability transition pore (mPTP), is opened. This ultimately leads to the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells.
Preventing or delaying the opening of the pores can protect brain cells and may slow the progression of Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative conditions.
Although molecules that inhibit pore opening have been known for many years, they come from natural products and cannot easily enter the brain.
Developing a pore inhibitor that can travel to the brain opens up the opportunity to develop a treatment that may slow or stop the progression of Parkinson's and motor neurone disease.
Dr Arthur Roach, Director of Research at Parkinson's UK and a Board member of NRG Therapeutics, said:
"Today there are 145,000 people in the UK who have Parkinson's. Slowly, day by day, their condition is getting worse and there are no treatments available that can slow this progression.
''Developing treatments that can do that is something that Cambridge-based biotech company, NRG, is focused on. They understand the challenges of designing medications that can get to where they are needed, inside the brain.
''Parkinson's UK is proud to be supporting NRG as they progress pioneering research into life-changing new treatments for Parkinson's."
NRG Therapeutics' co-founder and CEO, Dr Neil Miller said:
''Mitochondrial dysfunction is a common underlying pathology in many degenerative diseases and there is a substantial body of preclinical data available which demonstrates that inhibition of the mPTP in the brain prevents neuronal cell death, reduces neuroinflammation and extends survival in animals.
''With our unique discoveries, NRG is in a leadership position in this field to develop first-in-class central nervous system-penetrant mPTP inhibitors.''