Major grant for developing new drugs for Parkinson’s disease

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has awarded a grant worth in excess of half a million dollars to a research group of the Institute of Biotechnology for the development of a new treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

Akatemiaprofessori Mart Saarma

Headed by Academy Professor Mart Saarma, the group investigates, in collaboration with Hermo Pharma Ltd, therapies for the disease. The treatment under development is based on the CDNF growth factor discovered by Saarma's group.

Saarma's group and one headed by Professor Raimo K. Tuominen from the Faculty of Pharmacy have compared the effects of CDNF that could halt the destruction of dopamine neurons and improve their function with other neurotrophic factors in animal models.

The animal models would strongly suggest that CDNF has therapeutic potential in treating Parkinson’s disease through protecting dopamine neurons. CDNF has an important role in the development of dopamine neurons in the brain.

The grant will be used for investigating the therapeutic use of CDNF. Saarma is expecting the preclinical trials to prove the theory of CDNF’s safety and efficacy. The objective is to commence clinical trials in Helsinki.

– Funding received from the Michael J. Fox Foundation was extremely important for carrying out the preclinical trials. I am positive that we will soon be able to complete the preclinical trials and start clinical trials,” Saarma says.

The research involves top researchers in the fields of pharmacology and neuropharmacology. In addition to Saarma and Tuominen, another University of Helsinki researcher included in the projects is Professor Pekka Männistö from the Faculty of Pharmacy.

The efficacy and safety trials will be carried out at the University of Pittsburgh and University of Kentucky. Neurosurgeon, CSO Richard Penn from CNS Therapeutics company will contribute to the development of methods by which therapeutic proteins can be injected into the brain.

– I am proud of our collaboration with Hermo Pharma Ltd and our highly professional and international team.

Parkinson’s disease is a brain disease in which neurons producing dopamine are gradually destroyed. The symptoms of the disease are caused by the gradual decrease in neurons in the brain. As a result from the loss of cells, the amount of dopamine which is essential for brain function decreases.

Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience at the Institute of Biotechnology » »

Hermo Pharma Ltd » »

Text: Kirsikka Mattila
Photo: Veikko Somerpuro
12.10.2010
Translation: AAC Global
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