Alchemab wins $595,000 MJFF grant for Parkinson’s research

Company to study prostaglandin antibodies, identify new biomarkers

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by Andrea Lobo |

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The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) has awarded a $595,000 grant to Alchemab Therapeutics to advance research on the therapeutic effects of an antibody targeting the prostaglandin pathway in people with Parkinson’s disease.

The grant comes from the foundation’s Parkinson’s Disease Therapeutics Pipeline Program, which aims to fund the preclinical and clinical development of promising targets with the potential to prevent, stop, or delay disease progression, or ease the disease’s symptoms.

Prostaglandins play several roles in the body, including the regulation of blood pressure and the modulation of inflammation. In Parkinson’s, as in other neurodegenerative diseases, these hormone-like molecules are thought to contribute to neuroinflammation, or inflammation in the brain.

“We are delighted to be working with [MJFF] whose goals we share of fostering innovative Parkinson’s disease research, enhancing understanding of the disease, and developing targeted therapies,” Young Kwon, PhD, Alchemab’s CEO, said in a company press release.

Parkinson’s disease is caused by the progressive dysfunction and death of dopaminergic neurons — nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine — primarily found in a brain region called the substantia nigra. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, or a chemical nerve cells use to communicate.

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Identifying antibodies

Excessive inflammation within the brain is commonly seen in Parkinson’s, and this is thought to play a role in nerve cell damage and disease progression.

Alchemab’s approach is based on the identification of naturally occurring antibodies in individuals who are resilient to Parkinson’s, such as people with slow-to-progress disease. It does so by sequencing data from B-cells, immune cells responsible for producing antibodies, to find groups of protective antibodies that are present in these individuals.

After antibodies are selected, researchers analyze their binding targets and protective properties so they can develop and optimize therapeutic candidates that replicate the naturally occurring antibodies’ effect.

Alchemab has identified a target that may contribute to Parkinson’s disease resilience, by analyzing samples from people predisposed to Parkinson’s and patients with a typical disease course. The company is exploring how the prostaglandin pathway impacts disease progression, using broad genetic and molecular analysis.

Researchers are also applying Alchemab’s computational resources to analyze large datasets of Parkinson’s patients, such as the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative, to identify new targets.

“Alchemab has a unique approach to its research, and we are very much looking forward to seeing how this can identify new biomarkers and explore the role of inhibitory antibodies in Parkinson’s resilient individuals,” said Sohini Chowdhury, chief program officer at MJFF. “We hope that this work will expand new treatment pathways and bring hope to patients challenged by the disease.”