Ways of Preventing Protein Clumping in Parkinson’s Goal of Swiss Partnership

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by Diana Campelo Delgado |

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EPFL partnership

The Brain Mind Institute has joined with Idorsia Pharmaceuticals in a three-year effort to discover and develop new therapies for Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

“This collaboration combines some of the best skills and know-how from academia and industry with the common objective of finding new small molecules for the treatment of Parkinson’s,“ Michel Steiner, PhD, group leader of the Central Nervous System pharmacology department at Idorsia, said in a press release.

A hallmark of Parkinson’s is the buildup of alpha-synuclein protein aggregates, or clumps, within brain cells. These clumps are found mainly in dopamine-producing nerve cells, or neurons, where they appear to impair neuronal communication, or the brain’s way of sending messages to and from different regions.

Given the key role of alpha-synuclein aggregates in the development and progression of Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative disorders, these protein clumps are seen as potential therapeutic targets.

“Alpha-synuclein is thought to play a central role in neurodegenerative diseases, and is one of the most investigated targets for developing diagnostics and therapies for Parkinson’s,” said Hilal Lashuel, PhD, director of the Lashuel lab at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.

The partnership, which began in October, aims to combine the expertise and resources of academia and the pharmaceutical industry to address highly complex disorders such as Parkinson’s.

Idorsia, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company based in Basel, Switzerland, focuses on the development and discovery of small molecules targeting various disorders, such as Fabry disease, insomnia, lupus, and neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases.

Idorsia will contribute its chemical libraries, high-throughput screening, as well as its drug discovery capabilities to the collaborations.

Researchers with the Brain Mind Institute, also part of EPFL, will contribute to the project integrative experimental approaches as well as disease models developed in their lab.

Led by professor Hilal Lashuel, this research team has extensive expertise in protein misfolding and aggregation.

“We feel that we are well positioned to discover novel modifiers of alpha-synuclein aggregation and toxicity as potential therapeutic agents for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and/or other alpha-synucleinopathies,” Lashuel said.

Added Elodie Angot, PhD, a senior scientist and team member, this drug discovery program “has the potential to be a game changer for patients.”