MJFF Supporting Biomarker Test for Early Diagnosis, Patient Monitoring

Yedida Y Bogachkov PhD avatar

by Yedida Y Bogachkov PhD |

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Lundbeck, with support from the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF), is working to develop a “state of the art” biomarker test that could diagnose neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s in early stages.

The test, or assay, being developed in collaboration with scientists at the Danish Technical University (DTU) may also allow for better monitoring of disease progression and the effectiveness of disease-modifying therapies, including those being evaluated in clinical trials.

MJFF is financially supporting the work with a 2.6 million Danish krone (around $400,000) grant, which will fund a post-doctoral researcher, jointly supervised by Lundbeck and DTU, for two years.

“Innovation is at the core of our approach to translational research and drug discovery at Lundbeck and I’m thrilled that we are partnering with MJFF to bring therapeutic solutions for patients in need,” Tarek Samad, PhD, senior vice president and head of research at Lundbeck, said in a press release.

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“Research in synucleinopathies, including Parkinson’s disease … is rapidly evolving and the unmet need for new therapies, diagnostics, and disease relevant biomarkers has never been greater. We continue to be committed to our mission to restore brain health for the millions of people living with brain diseases,” Samad added.

Parkinson’s is marked by the aggregation, or clumping, of the alpha-synuclein protein within the brain. Lundbeck has been working over the past three years to develop and validate a biomarker test focused on detecting minute amounts of alpha-synuclein aggregates.

Such a test was developed and seen to determine with 90% accuracy whether an individual has misfolded alpha-synuclein aggregates in their cerebrospinal fluid (CSF, the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord).

But challenges arose in achieving high precision test results at larger scales, Lundbeck reported.

Company scientists now plan to work with microfluidic experts at DTU to further advance this work and develop an accurate, scalable biomarker assay for Parkinson’s.

“We are delighted that the MJFF grant enables us to combine our experience in the study of alpha-synuclein aggregation, as well as our microfluidics methods, with the long-standing efforts of Lundbeck to develop impactful diagnostics and therapeutics for patients with Parkinson’s,” said Alexander Kai Buell, PhD, a professor of protein biophysics at DTU.

Results from the project will be shared with the pharmaceutical industry, academia, and made public by MJFF to advance research in the Parkinson’s arena, Lundbeck stated.

This collaboration marks the sixth time in the last 13 years that MJFF has funded research driven by Lundbeck. Previously supported projects include the development of antibodies for alpha-synuclein and studies into the LRRK2 gene, implicated in Parkinson’s development. Additionally, the MJFF has supported work by Lundbeck into two new therapeutic targets.

Lundbeck is a member of three different groups organized by the MJFF: the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) Partner Scientific Advisory Board, the Research Tools Consortium for Industry (ITC), and the Parkinson’s Disease Education Consortium (PDEC).

These partnerships allow Lundbeck and MJFF to collaborate and develop resources for both the scientific community and patients and their families.

“The greatest unmet need of people with Parkinson’s disease is a therapy to slow or stop progression. We have funded Lundbeck for various work toward this goal, and this latest collaborative project grows that portfolio with promising efforts around a critical assay to support clinical trials,” said Luis Oliveira, PhD, senior associate director of research programs at the MJFF.