UK-based charity, Parkinson's UK is set to provide more than $1million in funding to US biotech company, Neurolixis, to accelerate the development of a promising new drug for people with Parkinson's.
The funding, to be spread over a twelve-month period, will support final pre-clinical studies for NLX-112, a novel serotonin 5-HT1A receptor agonist for the treatment of L-DOPA-induced dyskinesia.
Although L-DOPA is the most effective drug for treating Parkinson's, its long-term use is often complicated by significantly disabling dyskinesias - or involuntary movements - reducing the beneficial effect of the drug.
Dyskinesia affects millions of people around the world, with around half (40 to 50 per cent) of all people with Parkinson's experiencing it after five years of taking L-DOPA.
Neurolixis will now carry out final pre-clinical development of NLX-112, including testing in advanced pharmacology models prior to advancing NLX-112 into clinical studies.
This is the second project funded by Parkinson's UK's Virtual Biotech initiative. Launched last year to combat the lost opportunities in drug discovery and early clinical development caused by the changing pharma landscape, the Virtual Biotech allows the charity to provide leadership and critical funding in partnership with a range of other organisations that have the facilities and staff to carry out scientific work on a contract basis.
Director of Research and Development at Parkinson's UK, Dr Arthur Roach, said: "Being able to use our Virtual Biotech venture to accelerate the development of promising a new treatment that could potentially prevent L-DOPA-induced dyskinesia is very exciting for us and for people with Parkinson's across the world.
"With dyskinesia, everyday tasks, such as eating, writing and walking, can become extremely difficult. In fact, two thirds of people with Parkinson's have told us it is one of the most critical issues that impacts quality of life. With this new project, we hope to be able to deliver a potential treatment that will help address this global problem."
NLX-112 was discovered and developed by French pharma company, Pierre Fabre Médicament, as a potential treatment for pain. After reaching phase two clinical trials, it was out-licensed to Neurolixis, which identified an opportunity to re-purpose the drug for the treatment of L-DOPA-induced dyskinesia.
Dr Roach continued: "Because this drug has already reached phase two clinical trials in the past, we already know a lot about its safety in humans. This means that, should this last pre-clinical study go well, we could be seeing a new treatment for Parkinson's within as little as five years.
Dr Mark Varney, Co-founder, President and Chief Executive Officer at Neurolixis, said: "We greatly appreciate Parkinson's UK supporting this program. This grant will now enable us to move the NLX-112 program through the necessary regulatory steps in preparation for clinical trials in Parkinson's patients."
Parkinson's is a progressive neurological condition caused by the unexplained death of brain cells that create a chemical called dopamine. Without dopamine people experience slowness of movement, rigidity and a tremor.
As well as affecting movement, people with Parkinson's can find that other issues, such as tiredness, pain, depression and constipation, can have an impact on their day-to-day lives. It affects an estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide, making it one of the most common neurodegenerative conditions.
2017 marked 200 years since James Parkinson first recognised the condition in his Essay on the Shaking Palsy. Although medical breakthroughs such as L-DOPA, which was developed more than 50 years ago, is used by millions across the world to control the symptoms of Parkinson's, there is no known cure.