The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Fast Track designation to Prevail Therapeutics’ lead gene therapy candidate, PR001, for the treatment of people with Parkinson’s disease associated with GBA1 gene mutations.
Fast Track status will support and expedite the clinical development, regulatory review, and potential marketing approval of PR001.
The FDA’s decision follows its acceptance of Prevail’s Investigational New Drug application in June. That IND acceptance will allow the company to initiate a Phase 1/2 clinical trial to assess PR001’s safety and tolerability.
Prevail expects to launch the trial, and start dosing patients, during the second half of 2019.
“We are pleased that the FDA has granted Fast Track Designation for PR001, which underscores the unmet need of patients with Parkinson’s disease with a GBA1 mutation,” Asa Abeliovich, MD, PhD, founder and CEO of Prevail, said in a press release.
People who carry a mutated GBA1 gene can have up to 5 times higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Even though it remains unclear what links the two conditions, it is estimated that 7 to 10% of all Parkinson’s cases are related to GBA1 mutations.
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The GBA1 gene holds the instructions to produce the enzyme beta-glucocerebrosidase (GCase). That enzyme is essential for the digestion and recycling of different types of molecules and cellular debris in tiny vesicles called lysosomes. If GCase activity is impaired in any way, toxic substances accumulate inside cells, particularly as people age, leading to excessive inflammation and —probably, scientists say — the neurodegeneration seen in Parkinson’s disease.
PR001 is intended to be a disease-modifying and single-dose gene therapy for individuals with mutations in the GBA1 gene. It uses a modified and harmless version of an adeno-associated virus (AAV9) to deliver a fully working copy of the defective gene to nerve cells. This should allow for long-lasting expression of working beta-glucocerebrosidase, easing disease symptoms caused by the mutated gene.
Studies in mice and primates with Parkinson’s disease demonstrated that PR001 was well-tolerated. The gene therapy was found to promote an increase in GCase enzyme activity in mice. That resulted in reduced accumulation of fatty molecules, and improvements in motor function.
“With no treatments available that modify the progressive course or the underlying disease process of Parkinson’s disease, a potential disease-modifying therapy like PR001 could significantly transform the lives of patients with this disease,” Abeliovich said.