Actor Michael J Fox has thrown his support behind a firm that is developing a drug that could provide a breakthrough in treating Parkinson’s disease.
The Back to the Future star, who has suffered from the disease for decades, has donated over $1m to Inflazome through his foundation – the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF).
Inflazome have developed a drug that has successfully cured Parkinson’s in mice and are looking towards beginning clinical trials on humans.
They are developing several small molecule drugs that inhibit harmful inflammation.
The money from MJFF will fund the development of a NLRP3-specific Positron Emission Tomography (PET) tracer to allow non-invasive imaging of inflammasome-driven inflammation in the brain.
Prof Matt Cooper, Co-Founder and CEO of Inflazome, commented: “The Michael J. Fox Foundation is a fantastic organisation with a passionate commitment to new science, science translation and candidate therapies for Parkinson’s.
“We are fully aligned in our shared goal to help patients with Parkinson’s and other debilitating neurodegenerative diseases, for which there are inadequate therapies and no cures. Their support will help us advance and hopefully validate our disruptive approach to diagnose and then treat patients by focusing on neuroinflammation.”
The Dublin firm stress it is vital to select suitable patients at the appropriate staging of the disease in order to increase chances of accuracy and probability of success of a clinical trial.
It is also essential to determine whether the biological target of interest is being engaged by the drug in the brain.
One approach to achieve this in the central nervous system (CNS) is by using an NLRP3-specific tracer during a PET scan. The tracer could quickly, accurately and non-invasively produce images showing the drug binding to target inflammasomes in the brain.
The NLRP3 inflammasome is believed to drive chronic inflammation associated with the progression of many neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s Disease.
The PET tracer will also help Inflazome to determine what doses are needed for patients in larger clinical trials in the future. The Principal Investigator on this project is Prof. Matthew Cooper, CEO and co-founder of Inflazome, who is assisted by Co-Investigator Dr David Miller, Head of Medicinal Chemistry.
Inflazome is developing orally available drugs to address clinical unmet needs in inflammatory diseases by targeting the NLRP3 inflammasome, which is now understood to drive many chronic and acute inflammatory conditions.
The NLRP3 inflammasome was recently shown to be associated with the progression of Parkinson’s Disease in humans and in non-clinical models, in research published on 31 October 2018 in Science Translational Medicine.
This innovative research was co-authored by Prof. Cooper with research teams at The University of Queensland, Australia, led by A/Prof. Trent Woodruff and funded by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and the Shake It Up Australia Foundation.
Dr Jamie Eberling, Director of Research Programs at MJFF, said, “An imaging tool to visualize neuroinflammation may help investigate Parkinson’s onset and progression as well as evaluate new treatments that could alter the course of the disease.
“Our Foundation is investing in this research due to the significant potential impact on drug development and patient lives.”