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Stemnovate partners with Babraham Institute on Alzheimer’s disease project

Stemnovate is collaborating with the Babraham Institute on a project to untangle a potential causative agent of Alzheimer’s disease.

Funded by a BRCL grant, the company will work with Dr Nicholas Ktistakis, a group leader at the institute, to understand the role of autophagy in the progression of the disease.

Dr Ruchi Sharma at Stemnovate. Picture: Keith Heppell
Dr Ruchi Sharma at Stemnovate. Picture: Keith Heppell

Autophagy is a process of “self-eating” in cells. It usually eliminates damaged cell material, periodically cleaning up the cell interior.

But the suppression of autophagy and the subsequent build-up of aggregated proteins may be one causative agent for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's.

Dr Ktistakis’s lab focuses on understanding autophagy in healthy cells and in the context of diseases.

Stemnovate, which is based on the Babraham Research Campus, provides a research and development platform for cellular modelling and drug discovery, and has expertise in cellular reprogramming and cellular differentiation.

Together, they aim to better understand the role of protein aggregation in Alzheimer’s. The disease is known as a tauopathy because it is characterised by the deposition of abnormal tau protein in the brain.

Dr Ruchi Sharma, CEO of Stemnovate, said: “The tau protein is a potential treatment target for Alzheimer’s and understanding its role may improve the age-related physiological decline. Moreover, the novel cellular modelling helps us understand the devastating condition that has already affected millions of people in our ageing population.”

Dr Ktistakis said: “We are very excited to take advantage of the expertise of Stemnovate in sourcing patient samples and deriving iPSCs that can be used for understanding the connection between autophagy and neurodegeneration.

“If we can discover when and how autophagy acts to prevent protein aggregates forming then this will identify targets that can be assessed as therapeutic candidates to enhance good protein clearance.

“In itself, the model we will develop through this joint work can be used in the future to further understand neurodegeneration and identify potential treatments.”

Dr Kathryn Chapman, director of science and entrepreneurship at the Babraham Research Campus, who oversees the funding programme that will support this project, said: “We’re passionate about making the campus the best place to start and grow a life science venture.

“By supporting early stage discovery through connecting innovation across academic research and commercial research we are accelerating the delivery of knowledge and tools that will make a real-world difference.”

Stemnovate is seeking Alzheimer’s patients to volunteer blood samples or provide a very small skin biopsy donation.

To find out more about donating samples, email info@stemnovate.co.uk.

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