UK neuroscience company NRG Therapeutics Ltd has received a Biomedical Catalyst (BMC) award to fund preclinical development of its small molecule disease-modifying medicines for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, motor neuron disease (MND) and other debilitating chronic neurodegenerative disorders.
The £2.68M ($5.8M) early-stage BMC award part-funded by the government-backed agency Innovate UK will support a 24-month project, commencing this month.
NRG has also received seed equity funding from the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech, the drug development arm of Parkinson’s UK, and grant funding from The Michael J. Fox Foundation.
NRG is working in the field of mitochondrial biology to develop treatments for Parkinson’s, MND (also known as ALS) and, potentially, other neurodegenerative disorders. Its approach is based on inhibiting the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP) in brain cells, which has been shown to be neuroprotective in several preclinical models of Parkinson’s and MND.
Mitochondria, the ‘powerhouses’ or ‘batteries’ of cells are essential for maintaining cell health, but NRG said there is now a substantial body of evidence showing mitochondrial failure or dysfunction is common across many degenerative diseases.
NRG’s investigational new drugs have been shown in vitro to protect mitochondria and prevent the death of brain cells. This means they have the potential to halt or significantly slow the progression of disease in individuals with Parkinson’s or MND.
Dr Arthur Roach, director of research at Parkinson’s UK and a board member of NRG Therapeutics, said, “What has limited the pharmaceutical industry to date from exploring mPTP inhibitors as novel therapeutic treatments, has been the poor central nervous system (CNS) penetration of known mPTP inhibitors.
“NRG’s small molecules are the first orally bioavailable and CNS-penetrant inhibitors of the mPTP. We are pleased to support NRG in developing its promising discoveries into new drug treatments that could transform the lives of people with Parkinson’s.”
If successful, the project would deliver the first disease-modifying medicine to halt or slow disease progression for people with Parkinson’s who are currently treated through management of disease symptoms only. Parkinson’s affects around 6 million individuals and is the fastest-growing neurological disorder in the world.
Motor neurone disease
In addition, NRG is targeting a novel pathological mechanism in MND that was identified in 2020 by its collaborators in Australia. MND is a neurodegenerative disease that typically leads to death within three to five years of diagnosis and for which current treatment extends life by around three months.
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 CNS-penetrant mPTP inhibitors.”
The BMC award (of which NRG contributes 30% of the funding) will, over 24 months, generate a preclinical data package that demonstrates NRG’s drug candidates penetrate into the brain, protect mitochondria, prevent brain cell death in animal models; and are safe and well tolerated following chronic dosing. It follows an earlier award to NRG of an Innovate UK EDGE grant which provided scientific and commercial insights for NRG’s MND program.
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