Vaxxinity, University of Florida join for work on Parkinson’s vaccine
Effort to improve therapies like UB-312, aiming to 'neutralize toxic proteins'
Funded by a grant from the state of Florida, the partnership aims to advance Vaxxinity’s lead immunotherapy candidates, designed to prevent and manage these disorders.
The company’s experimental vaccine for Parkinson’s, UB-312, has been tested in Phase 1 clinical trial (NCT04075318), initially in healthy adults and then in patients with mild-to-moderate Parkinson’s disease.
Results found UB-312 to be safe and well tolerated in the volunteers and to induce the production of antibodies targeting the alpha-synuclein protein. Similar antibody production later was reported in patients, along with slower toxic protein clumping, a main cause of Parkinson’s.
Parkinson’s vaccine aims to produce antibodies against toxic alpha-synuclein
“This work builds upon years of research on our … technology platform to target endogenous proteins, and can help us to develop better candidates for neurodegenerative diseases in the future,” Mei Mei Hu, Vaxxinity’s CEO, said in a company press release.
“This collaboration is an important way we are advancing our vision to provide cheaper, safer, more convenient, and effective medicines for chronic disease to all,” Hu added.
The formation of alpha-synuclein clumps, also called Lewy bodies, in patients’ brains is thought to play an important role in the progressive dysfunction and death of dopaminergic neurons, nerve cells that produce the chemical dopamine these cells use to communicate with each other. This neurodegeneration ultimately causes Parkinson’s symptoms.
Vaxxinity states that its technology differs from other forms of immunotherapy by overcoming immune tolerance — the body’s ability to recognize its cells and tissues, preventing the immune system from attacking them. It also promotes the production of antibodies directly in the body, allowing for less frequent treatment administration than that required for the lab-made monoclonal antibodies that now “dominate” these therapies, it reports.
“By turning the body into its own antibody ‘drug factory’, we develop medicines that are easier to make, easier to take and dramatically less costly,” the company states on its website.
UB-312, the company’s Parkinson’s vaccine candidate, contains a synthetic piece of the alpha-synuclein protein bound to immune-stimulating molecules, intending to promote a patient’s immune system to produce antibodies against toxic forms of alpha-synuclein.
In preclinical studies in mouse models of the disease, Vaxxinity demonstrated the vaccine’s ability to induce antibody production and reduce alpha-synuclein clumping.
Under the research agreement, university scientists will conduct further preclinical studies exploring the effects of Vaxxinity’s candidates for neurodegenerative diseases in several lab (in vitro) experiments and animal models of the disease (in vivo tests).
The company will provide materials, including candidates and antibodies generated by active immunotherapy treatment.
“Our work with [University of Florida] will drive a deeper understanding of how to neutralize toxic proteins in the brain implicated in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” Hu said.
“We believe this partnership will drive scientific progress and … are grateful for the state of Florida’s commitment to advancing medical science for our aging population in Florida and beyond,” said Matthew J. LaVoie, PhD, director of the University of Florida’s Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease, where the research will be conducted.