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Start-Up to Commercialize New Parkinson’s Treatment

Nerve cells illustration

(commonfund.nih.gov)

18 October 2016. A new company in the U.K. is being formed to bring a treatment to market that stops the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Mavalon Therapeutics Ltd., a spin-off enterprise from Domain Therapeutics in Strasbourg, France, is being initially financed with up to €9 million ($US 10 million) from venture capital company Medicxi Ventures.

Parkinson’s disease occurs when the brain produces less of the substance dopamine, a neurotransmitter that sends signals from one neuron or nerve cell to another. As the level of dopamine lowers, individuals become less able to control their bodily movements and emotions. Symptoms include tremors, i.e. shaking, slowness and rigidity in movements, loss of facial expression, decreased ability to control blinking and swallowing, and in some cases, depression and anxiety. According to Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, some 60,000 new cases of Parkinson’s disease are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, with more than 10 million people worldwide living with the disease.

Mavalon Therapeutics is developing an experimental small-molecule, or low molecular weight, treatment for Parkinson’s disease, begun by Domain Therapeutics, promoting production of a protein that in lab tests restores the growth of neurons producing dopamine. That protein is glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor, or GDNF, a target of Parkinson’s drug candidates for more than 20 years. In lab cultures, animal tests, and some clinical trials, GDNF is shown to halt the damage to neurons that occurs in Parkinson’s disease, but delivering GDNF to the brain, as with a catheter, is difficult and sometimes dangerous for people with the disorder.

Domain Therapeutics is a biotechnology company discovering new small-molecule drugs that it licenses or spins-off for clinical development. The company discovered a line of Parkinson’s drug candidates, with the latest addressing metabotropic glutamate receptor type 3, a protein that in lab tests is shown to promote production of GDNF. Metabotropic glutamate receptor type 3, or GRM3, first needs to be activated by a glutamate, an amino acid found in some neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain, with the degenerating neurons in people with Parkinson’s disease shown to release that glutamate.

Medicxi Ventures is Mavalon Therapeutics’ early-stage financier. Based in the U.K. and Switzerland, Medicxi Ventures provides venture capital for start-up companies in the life sciences. According to reports of public document filings, Mavalon was formed earlier this year, with Michèle Ollier, a partner at Medicxi Ventures, listed as the company’s director.

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