Michael J. Fox Foundation and Prothena Seek Novel Biomarkers for Parkinson’s Disease

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The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and Prothena Corporation announced a collaboration to find new biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease (PD) progression. They will focus on molecules related to alpha-synuclein, a protein found in the brain of people with PD that may contribute to the cause of the disease.

A biomarker refers to a biological measurement that indicates the presence of a disease compared to a non-diseased state. Biomarkers can be used to measure disease severity and response to medications. Biomarkers may be measured in bodily fluids, such as blood, cerebrospinal fluid, saliva or urine, or they can even be detected as patterns of brain activity, such as with neuroimaging techniques. Alpha-synuclein or related molecules that interact with it may be of particular interest to the study of PD.

“As more potential therapies come closer to and cross the line to clinical testing — and, in parallel, the number of people with Parkinson’s grows as the population ages — the need for Parkinson’s biomarkers grows more urgent,” stated Todd Sherer, PhD, CEO of MJFF. “Prothena is a leader in the development of potential treatments against our highest priority target, alpha-synuclein, and we are pleased to collaborate with them toward these tools to speed research.”

The two organizations will mainly focus on biomarkers identified in medication trials for PD.

“We are committed to identifying new insights about the underlying cause and progression of Parkinson’s disease and believe that biomarkers clearly defining disease progression may both enhance this understanding and enable more effective, efficient clinical development of disease-modifying therapeutics for patients and families impacted by Parkinson’s disease,” said Dale Schenk, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of Prothena. “In addition, we believe this collaboration with MJFF will help inform the clinical development strategy for PRX002, a monoclonal antibody for the potential treatment of Parkinson’s disease. We look forward to reporting results from our ongoing Phase 1 multiple ascending dose study of PRX002 in patients with Parkinson’s disease during the first half of 2016.”

PRX002 binds to and blocks α-synuclein. In March of 2015 Prothena announced that in a Phase I trial (an initial trial in humans) PRX002 was safe and well-tolerated. The drug also reduced levels of alpha-synuclein in the blood.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation has a long history of supporting research on Parkinson’s biomarkers. The foundation spearheaded the observational Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative, a $60 million study focusing on PD biomarkers, involving 33 locations around the world. Biological markers for PD could help in diagnosis, as well as predicting the progression of the disease. They could be used to determine whether treatments are working early, and might be easier to measure than standard tests of movement typically used in PD clinical trials. Biomarkers may also provide targets for new drugs.

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