Eisai Expanding Research Into Parkinson’s Biomarkers, Treatments

Joins with Washington University for work into disease-modifying therapies

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by Mary Chapman |

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Eisai is collaborating with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis in research into new treatments for Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

The Japan-based pharmaceutical company’s aim is to meld the expertise of Washington University’s investigators in basic and clinical research for such disorders with its experience in treatment discovery and development.

Within five years, they hope to be testing a range of potential therapies and to have identified new biomarkers of neurodegeneration. Biomarkers can help predict and diagnose diseases, and they provide researchers with early evidence of an investigative treatment’s efficacy.

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“Patients living with neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, struggle with critical unmet medical needs, which is the reason neurology is a key therapeutic area for Eisai,” Teiji Kimura, PhD, the academia and industry alliance officer for Eisai’s deep human biology learning office, said in a company press release.

“By collaborating with world-leading research institutions … Eisai is working to fulfill our human health care mission and provide potential new and targeted disease-modifying therapies with the ultimate goal of achieving a world free of neurodegenerative disease.”

Under the agreement, Eisai will have option rights to develop treatment candidates and biomarkers found that meet set research and development criteria. The company would provide Washington University with milestone payments and royalties for each licensed therapy that goes on to be approved and marketed.

Washington University and Eisai also are collaborating in a placebo-controlled Phase 2/3 trial (NCT05269394) of E2814 plus lecanemab, two experimental Alzheimer’s treatments by Eisai, in adults with a disease-causing mutation.

“Washington University and Eisai have overlapping interests in discovering targets for neurological and neurodegenerative conditions,” David M. Holtzman, MD, the dean of Washington University’s medical school, said in an university press release.

“We are both interested in identifying which molecules are driving neurodegeneration, and determining whether they can be targeted for potential therapies, but we each have our own strengths and access to different resources,” added Holtzman, also a distinguished professor of neurology at the university.

“This promises to be a mutually beneficial collaboration.”

Eisai partnered with Wren Therapeutics in 2020 to advance discovery of disease-modifying treatments for Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases associated with the accumulation of toxic clumps of the alpha-synuclein protein.

The company also launched Equfina (safinamide) in South Korea as an add-on to levodopa for Parkinson’s patients who experience “off” episodes, periods between doses when the therapy cannot control symptoms entirely. The therapy is known as Xadago in the U.S., Europe, and Australia, and as Onstryv in Canada; its marketed in those countries by Newron and Supernus pharmaceuticals.