Parkinson's UK invests in potential new drug targeting brain inflammation

We're providing £2.1million through our Virtual Biotech programme to develop a potential new drug which holds promise for protecting brain cells in Parkinson's. 

Parkinson's UK is partnering with the US biotech company Neumora Therapeutics to help fund and accelerate the final lab-based experiments needed to advance a potential new drug targeting inflammation. 

If this 2-year project is successful, the drug could move towards testing in people in clinical trials.

Why targeting inflammation could protect brain cells

Inflammation is a key process for keeping us healthy as our immune cells attack and get rid of foreign invaders. However, too much inflammation can be damaging to cells.

In Parkinson's, studies have shown that there is more inflammation in the brain areas affected by the condition. Scientists believe this may play a role in damaging the dopamine-producing cells affected in Parkinson’s, speeding up the rate they die.

The search is now on to find therapies that can reduce inflammation in the brain, as these could have the potential to slow or stop the condition's progression.

Stopping inflammation before it starts

The potential new drug involved in this project aims to protect these precious cells by stopping inflammation being triggered in the brain.

In all our cells, we have proteins that react to danger signals. When these proteins detect damage or infection, they're triggered to kick start the inflammation process.

One of the first things these proteins do is join together to form a structure called an inflammasome inside specialised cells.

The inflammasome then activates a host of inflammatory processes including the release of chemicals that cause inflammation. They also activate surrounding cells, which can do further damage to brain cells that are struggling in Parkinson's.

The drug being developed aims to stop inflammasomes forming, and as a result stop harmful inflammation at its source.

What this investment will support

Neumora Therapeutics has already been working hard to design and develop a molecule that can get into the brain and stop the formation of the inflammasome.

The next steps will focus on carrying out further extensive testing to progress a carefully chosen compound from their programme towards clinical trials.  

This will include conducting studies in cells and animals to carry out testing that's legally required for all new medicines. These tests will investigate possible side effects, how the potential new drug may interact with other common medications, and how it's distributed and processed inside the body. 

Regulatory guidelines require new drugs to be tested in 2 animal species for safety - a rodent (rat or mouse) and a non-rodent (dog, pig or non-human primate). Only then can they can be given to people in clinical trials. 

If these vital tests are successfully completed, the new drug should be ready to move forward towards testing in people in clinical trials.

Major potential to slow or stop Parkinson's

Arthur Roach, Virtual Biotech Director at Parkinson's UK, said:

"We're delighted to be working with Neumora Therapeutics to accelerate the development of an extremely promising new therapeutic for Parkinson's. 

"We know people with the condition have more inflammation in the brain and this may play a role in damaging the dopamine-producing cells affected in Parkinson's, speeding up the rate at which they die. 

"Drugs that can effectively reduce inflammation in the brain have major potential to slow or stop the progression of the condition, something people living with Parkinson's desperately need."