Nitrase Therapeutics Wins MJFF Grant To Study Possible Biomarker
Nitrase Therapeutics has received a second grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) to advance the company’s research on nitrated alpha-synuclein, a new potential biomarker to help predict and diagnose Parkinson’s disease.
“MJFF is the leading research accelerator for Parkinson’s disease treatments, and we are honored to receive funding support once again in recognition of our cutting-edge scientific discoveries and research into potential therapies for patients with Parkinson’s disease,” Pierre Beaurang, PhD, CEO at Nitrase Therapeutics, said in a press release. The company was formerly known as Nitrome Biosciences.
In Parkinson’s disease, the protein alpha-synuclein builds up to toxic levels within nerve cells, eventually killing neurons that produce dopamine — a chemical messenger involved in nerve cell communication and motor control.
Therapies currently being developed by Nitrase specifically target an enzyme the company calls synuclein nitrase. The enzyme is said to cause or speed alpha-synuclein’s accumulation and nitration — a type of chemical modification caused by cellular stress.
Recent data from a small study with 28 patients with Parkinson’s has suggested that elevated levels of nitrated alpha-synuclein in the liquid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord (cerebrospinal fluid) could be a strong biomarker for the disease.
The findings were presented at the AD/PD 2022 International Conference on Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and related neurological disorders, which took place March 15–20 in Barcelona.
Results showed that nitrated alpha-synuclein was significantly elevated in the cerebrospinal fluid of people with Parkinson’s disease.
“These early findings represent a major discovery as nitrated synuclein could be a selective biomarker for Parkinson’s diagnosis, possibly leading to earlier detection and treatment of the disease,” Irene Griswold-Prenner, PhD, chief scientific officer at Nitrase, said in another press release.
“Furthermore, this study illustrates the important role that nitrated synuclein plays in Parkinson’s disease. To our knowledge, we are the first to have identified, and are the only ones advancing, inhibitors of Synuclein Nitrase, the enzyme responsible for nitrating synuclein, for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease,” Griswold-Prenner said.
The company said studies with a larger number of patients are needed to confirm the use of nitrated alpha-synuclein to predict disease progression in Parkinson’s.
“The work conducted by Nitrase, in the discovery and understanding of the role that synuclein nitrase plays in Parkinson’s, takes us further in achieving our joint goal of advancing transformative therapies. The potential confirmation of a novel biomarker can not only serve to identify patients earlier in the course of their disease and provide earlier access to medical care, but also serves as an important new target for drug development,” Luis M. Oliveira, PhD, senior associate director of research programs at MJFF, said.
In 2019, MJFF awarded Nitrase a Target Advancement grant to continue its investigations on synuclein nitrase as a therapy for Parkinson’s disease. The amount of the two MJFF grants was not disclosed.