NRG Therapeutics’ £2.68m award will help fund new hope against Parkinson’s disease
NRG Therapeutics has won a £2.68million award to help fund the pre-clinical development of medicines that it is hoped could be the first to halt or slow the progression of Parkison’s disease.
The Cambridge neuroscience company, which targets mitochondrial dysfunction, is embarking on a two-year project thanks to the competitive Biomedical Catalyst award, which is part-funded by the government agency Innovate UK.
NRG’s pipeline feature brain-penetrating small molecule inhibitors of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP), which offer potential as first-in-class treatments for Parkinson's disease and motor neuron disease (MND) and potentially other chronic neurodegenerative disorders.
The mPTP in brain cells has been shown to be ‘neuroprotective’ in several preclinical models of Parkinson’s and MND.
Our mitochondria are essential to cell health, acting as their powerhouses, but there is growing evidence that mitochondrial failure or dysfunction is common to many degenerative diseases.
NRG's investigational new drugs have been shown in vitro to protect mitochondria and prevent the death of brain cells.
It is hoped this means they have the potential to halt or significantly slow the progression of disease in individuals with Parkinson’s or MND.
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”.
Founded by biotech entrepreneurs with pharma experience and neuroscience R&D expertise, the company has previously 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.
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 could lead to the first disease-modifying medicine to halt or slow disease progression for people with Parkinson’s. Currently, patients with the disease are treated only through the management of their symptoms.
The fastest-growing neurological disorder in the world, Parkinson’s affects around six million people.
NRG will contribute 30 per cent of the funding towards the project, which will advance its mPTP inhibitors from lead optimisation through to completion of IND-enabling GLP-toxicology studies with its lead asset.
The company expects to 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.
NRG is also targeting a novel pathological mechanism in MND identified in 2020 by its collaborators in Australia. An earlier Innovate UK EDGE grant provided scientific and commercial insights for the company’s MND programme.
The current gold standard treatment for MND typically extends life by around only three months.