Celltrion, LisCure working on gut microbiome therapies for Parkinson’s

Companies looking into potential of live microorganisms to treat disease

Patricia Inácio, PhD avatar

by Patricia Inácio, PhD |

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LisCure Biosciences is teaming up with Celltrion to identify and develop oral therapies targeting the gut microbiome — the population of microorganisms living in the gastrointestinal tract —for people with Parkinson’s disease, the company announced.

Under the collaboration, the South Korean companies aim to develop orally available live biotherapeutic products (LBPs) for the neurodegenerative disease. LBPs, a new class of treatments, are biological products containing whole, live microorganisms, such as a bacteria or yeast, that could help to prevent or treat a disease.

LisCure will lead the discovery part of the research project, while Celltrion will be responsible for further clinical and regulatory development.

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Research suggesting a gut-brain axis in diseases like Parkinson’s

While Parkinson’s is characterized by the progressive death and dysfunction of nerve cells in the substantia nigra, a brain region with a key role in movement control. Motor symptoms are the disease hallmark, but patients also show varied nonmotor symptoms.

A growing body of research has implicated the gut microbiome in Parkinson’s development. The gut microbiome plays critical roles in health, and its dysregulation can have far-reaching effects across the body, including in the nervous system.

Prior studies reported that the numbers of more than 30% of gut microbial species are abnormal in Parkinson’s patients, with their gut microbiome appearing to have shifted toward a pro-inflammatory state.

Gut inflammation also has been linked to Parkinson’s occurrence and development, with some studies suggesting that the toxic clumps of the alpha-synuclein protein that mark Parkinson’s travel from the gut to the brain, where they cause neurodegeneration.

LisCure is developing brain-targeting microbial-based candidates using its LISCure Microbiology-based Technology (LMT) platform for neurodegenerative conditions, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

Specifically, it aims to discover and identify bacteria-secreted exosomes with therapeutic activity. Exosomes are tiny vesicles released by cells, including bacteria, that are able to carry proteins, DNA, and RNA molecules.

These vesicles can also cross the blood brain barrier, a highly selective membrane that shields the central nervous system (CNS; the brain and spinal cord) from potentially harmful microbes and molecules in circulating blood. Crossing into the brain is often a challenge for CNS-targeting therapies.

The company currently has a one such candidate, called LB-P4, in its pipeline as a potential Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s treatment, and anticipates bringing it into a Phase 1 clinical trial later this year.