Tagged: Glucocerebrosidase

Dream, struggle, create, Prevail

 

The recent documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by the biotech firm Prevail Therapeutics provides interesting insight into the bold plans of this company which was only founded in 2017.

Even more recent news that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted the company’s Investigational New Drug (IND) application for its lead experimental treatment – PR001 – suggests that this company is not wasting any time. 

PR001 is a gene therapy approach targeting GBA-associated Parkinson’s.

In today’s post, we will discuss what GBA-associated Parkinson’s is, how Prevail plans to treat this condition, and discuss what we know about PR001.

 


Caterina Fake. Source: TwiT

The title of this post comes is from a quote by Caterina Fake (co-founder of Flickr and Hunch (now part of Ebay)), but it seemed appropriate.

This post is all about dreaming big (curing Parkinson’s), the struggle to get the research right, and to create a biotech company: Prevail Therapeutics.

What is Prevail Therapeutics?

Prevail is a gene therapy biotech firm that was founded in 2017.

The company was founded by Dr Asa Abeliovich:

Dr Asa Abeliovich. Source: Prevail

It was set up in a collaborative effort with The Silverstein Foundation for Parkinson’s with GBA (Click here to read a previous SoPD post about this organisation) and OrbiMed (a healthcare-dedicated investment firm).

What does Prevail Therapeutics do?

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A focus on GBA-Parkinson’s

 

 

 

This week the ‘Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research’ and ‘The Silverstein Foundation for Parkinson’s with GBA’ announced that they are collaboratively awarding nearly US$3 million in research grants to fund studies investigating an enzyme called beta glucocerebrosidase (or GCase).

Why is this enzyme important to Parkinson’s?

In today’s post, we will discuss what GCase does, how it is associated with Parkinson’s, and review what some of these projects will be exploring.

 


Source: DenisonMag

This is Jonathan Silverstein.

He is a General Partner of Global Private Equity at OrbiMed – the world’s largest fully dedicated healthcare fund manager. During his time at OrbiMed, the company has invested in healthcare companies that have been involved with over 60 FDA approved products.

In February 2017 – at just 49 years of age – Jonathan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Rather than simply accepting this diagnosis, however, Mr Silverstein decided to apply the skills that he has built over a long and successful career in funding biotech technology, and in March 2017, he and his wife, Natalie, set up the Silverstein Foundation for Parkinson’s with GBA.

The foundation has just one mission: “to actively pursue and invest in cutting edge research with the goal of discovering new therapies for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease in GBA mutation carriers

And it seeks to address this by achieving three goals:

  1. to find a way to halt the progression of Parkinson’s with GBA.
  2. to identify regenerative approaches to replace the damaged/lost cells
  3. to find preventative measures

This week, the Silverstein foundation and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research made a big anoouncement.

The two organisations announced nearly US$3 million in grants to fund studies investigating an enzyme called glucocerebrosidase beta acid (or GCase).

And what exactly is glucocerebrosidase?

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On your MARCKS. Get set. Go

 

An important aspect of developing better remedies for Parkinson’s involves determining when and where the condition starts in the brain. What is the underlying mechanism that kicks things off and can it be therapeutically targetted?

Recently, researchers from Japan have suggested that a protein called Myristoylated alanine-rich C-kinase substrate (or simply MARCKS) may be a potentially important player in the very early stages of Parkinson’s (and other neurodegenerative conditions).

Specifically, they have found that MARCKS is present before many of the other pathological hallmarks of Parkinson’s (such as Lewy bodies) even appear. But what does this mean? And what can we do with this information?

In today’s post, we will look at what MARCKS is, what new research suggests, and how the research community are attempting to target this protein.

 


Where does it all begin? Source: Cafi

One of the most interesting people I met during my time doing Parkinson’s assessment clinics was an ex-fire forensic investigator.

We would generally start each PD assessment session with a “brief history” of life and employment – it is a nice ice breaker to the appointment, helped to relax the individual by focusing on a familiar topic, and it could provide an indication of potential issues to consider in the context of Parkinson’s – such as job related stress or exposure to other potential risk factors (eg. pesticides, etc).

Source: Assessment

But so fascinated was I with the past emplyoment of the ex-fire forensic investigator gentleman that the “brief history” was anything but brief.

We had a long conversation.

One aspect of fire forensics that particularly fascinated me was the way he could walk into a recently burned down property, and he could “read the story backwards” to identify the root cause of the fire.

He could start anywhere on a burnt out property and find his way back to the source (and also determine if the fire was accidental or deliberate).

Where did it all start? Source: Morestina

I marvelled at this idea.

And I can remember wondering “why can’t we do that with Parkinson’s?

Well, recently some Japanese researchers have had a crack at “reading the story backwards” and they found something rather interesting.

What did they find?

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Not bohemian, just ‘Rapsodi’

 

Moving forward into 2019 and beyond, we are going to be getting more sophisticated and targetted with our clinical trials for Parkinson’s. We are gradually moving away from the days when a drug was tested on anyone in the Parkinson’s-affected community, and heading for an age of sub-type specific treatments (Click here for a previous SoPD post on subtyping efforts for PD).

As part of this shift, there are a series of ongoing studies that are trying to identify not only the clinical & biological characteristics of those Parkinson’s sub-types, but also individuals who may already be in those groupings.

One such study is called “Rapsodi” – and it is focused on the identification of people with a particular genetic risk factor of PD – the GBA gene – who also demonstrate the early signs of Parkinson’s.

In today’s post, we will discuss what GBA is, how it is associated with Parkinson’s, and why the Rapsodi study is worthy of the PD community’s attention.

 


1082760

Ambroxol. Source: Skinflint

The clinical trial of Ambroxol in Parkinson’s that has been conducted in London (UK) is close to announcing their final results. The Ambroxol study report should be published in early 2019.

What is the ambroxol study?

Started in February 2017, the Ambroxol study (named AiM-PDAmbroxol in Disease Modification in Parkinson Disease) is a phase IIA prospective, single-centre, open label clinical trial to evaluate the safety, tolerability and pharmacodynamic effects of Ambroxol in Parkinson’s (Click here to read more about this trial and click here for the press release announcing the start of the study).

This trial, which is funded by the Cure Parkinson’s Trust and the Van Andel Research Institute (USA), has been conducted at the Royal Free Hospital in London (UK). The study has involved 20 people with Parkinson’s self-administering Ambroxol (in 60 mg per tablet) over a 6 month time frame. The participants were given 5 escalating doses of the drug for the first few weeks of the study (from 60 mg three times per day, gradually building up to 420 mg three times a day after the first month of the study).

But hang on a second. What is exactly is Ambroxol?

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Don’t get mad! Get NAD!

Recently researchers have provided very interesting evidence that a form of vitamin B3, called Nicotinamide Riboside, may have beneficial effects for Parkinson’s.

Their data suggests that nicotinamide riboside was able to rescue problems in mitochondria – the power stations of cells – in both fly and human cell-based models of Parkinson’s.

And the results also suggest that this treatment could prevent the neurodegeneration of dopamine producing neurons.

In today’s post, we will discuss what nicotinamide riboside is, what is does in the body, how it may be having its beneficial effect, and we will consider the pros and cons of taking it as a supplement.


My pile of research reports to read. Source: Reddit

We have a serious problem in biomedical research at the moment.

Serious for ‘planet research’ that is (Good for ‘planet patient’! – click here to understand this sentence).

The problem is very simple: there is too much research going on, and there is now too much information to be absorbed. 

There has been an incredible increase in the number of research reports for ‘Parkinson’s’:

For Parkinson’s research alone, every day there is about 20 new research reports (approximately 120 per week). It used to be the case that there was one big research report per year. Then progress got to the crazy point of one big finding per month. And now things are ‘completely kray kray’ (as my 5 year old likes to say), with one new major finding every week!

On top of this, everyday there are new methodology reports, new breakthroughs in other fields that could relate to what is happening in PD, new clinical trial results, etc… The image below perfectly represents how many researchers are currently feeling with regards to the information flow:

How I feel most days. Source: Lean

Don’t get me wrong.

These are very exciting times, big steps are being made in our understanding of conditions like Parkinson’s. It’s just that it is really hard keeping up with the amazing flow of new data.

And this is certainly apparent here on the SoPD website. Occasionally, a few days after I publish something on a particular topic on the SoPD website, a fascinating new research report on that same topic will be published. When I get a chance to read it, I will sometimes add an addendum to the bottom of a post highlighting the new research.

Every now and then, however, the new research deserves a post all of its own.

Which is the case today.

A week after I published the recent Vitamin B3/Niacin post, a new study was published that dealt with a different form of Vitamin B3, called Nicotinamide Riboside. And the results of that study were really interesting.

Wait a minute. Vitamin B3 comes in different forms?

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Something is interesting in the state of Denmark

 

 

Gaucher disease is a genetic disorder caused by the reduced activity of an enzyme, glucocerebrosidase. This enzyme is produced by a region of DNA (or a gene) called GBA – the same GBA gene associated with a particular form of Parkinson’s.

Recently, a Danish company has been testing a new drug that could benefit people with Gaucher disease.

It is only natural to ask the question: Could this drug also benefit GBA-associated Parkinson’s?

In today’s post, we will discuss what Gaucher disease is, how this experimental drug works, and why it would be interesting to test it in Parkinson’s.


Will Shakespeare. Source: Ppolskieradio

The title of this post is a play on words from one of the many famous lines of William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet.

The original line – delivered by Marcellus (a Danish army sentinel) after the ghost of the dead king appears – reads: If the authorities knew about the problems and chose not to prevent them, then clearly something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

(Act 1, Scene 4)

The title of this post, however, is: Something is interesting in the state of Denmark

This slight change was made because certain Danish authorities know about the problem and they are trying to prevent it. The ‘authorities’ in this situation are some research scientists at a biotech company in Denmark, called Orphazyme.

And the problem is Parkinson’s?

No, the problem is Gaucher disease.

Huh? What is Gaucher disease?

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Happy birthday: Silverstein Foundation

Over the last 12 months, the Silverstein Foundation has quickly established itself as a major focused force in the fight against Parkinson’s.

And when I say ‘focused’, I mean ‘focused’ –  the foundation is “actively pursues and invests in cutting edge research with the goal of discovering new therapies for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease in glucocerebrosidase (GBA) mutation carriers”.

But the output of this effort may well have major benefits for the entire Parkinson’s community.

In today’s post, we will discuss what GBA is, how it functions inside cells, its association with Parkinson’s, and what all of this GBA focused research being funded by the Silverstein Foundation could mean for the Parkinson’s community.


Jonathan Silverstein. Source: Forbes

This is Jonathan Silverstein.

He’s a dude.

He is also a General Partner and a Co-Head of Global Private Equity at OrbiMed – the world’s largest fully dedicated healthcare fund manager. During his time at OrbiMed, the company has invested in healthcare companies that have been involved with over 60 FDA approved products.

In February 2017, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at just 49 years of age.

Rather than simply accepting this diagnosis, however, Mr Silverstein decided to apply the skills that he has built over a long and successful career in funding biotech technology, and in March 2017, he and his wife, Natalie, set up the Silverstein Foundation.

They raised $6 million from donors and then provided another $10 million of their own money to fund the endeavour, which has funded a dozen research projects and started a new company called Prevail Therapeutics (we’ll come back to this shortly).

Source: Businesswire

The foundation has just one mission: “to actively pursue and invest in cutting edge research with the goal of discovering new therapies for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease in GBA mutation carriers”

And it seeks to address this by achieving three goals:

  1. to find a way to halt the progression of Parkinson’s with GBA.
  2. to identify regenerative approaches to replace the damaged/lost cells
  3. to find preventative measures

What is ‘GBA’?

Continue reading

Monthly Research Review – January 2018

Today’s (experimental) post provides something new – an overview of some of the major bits of Parkinson’s-related research that were made available in January 2018.


In January of 2018, the world was rocked by news that New Zealand had become the 11th country in the world to put a rocket into orbit (no really, I’m serious. Not kidding here – Click here to read more). Firmly cementing their place in the rankings of world superpowers. In addition, they became only the second country to have a prime minister get pregnant during their term in office (in this case just 3 months into her term in office – Click here to read more about this).

A happy New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardine

In major research news, NASA and NOAA announced that 2017 was the hottest year on record globally (without an El Niño), and among the top three hottest years overall (Click here for more on this), and scientists in China reported in the journal Cell that they had created the first monkey clones, named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua (Click here for that news)

Zhong Zhong the cute little clone. Source: BBC

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When GCase is away, the GSLs will play

 

 

New research published in the last week provides further experimental support for numerous clinical trials currently being conducted, including one by the biotech company Sanofi Genzyme.

Researchers have demonstrated that tiny proteins which usually reside on the outer wall of cells could be playing an important role in the protein clustering (or aggregation) that characterises Parkinson’s

In today’s post we will look at this new research and discuss what it could mean for the on going clinical trials for Parkinson’s. 


Source: Stevedalepetworld

The proverb ‘When the cat is away, the mice will play’ has Latin origins.

Dum felis dormit, mus gaudet et exsi litantro (or ‘When the cat falls asleep, the mouse rejoices and leaps from the hole’)

It was also used in the early fourteenth century by the French: Ou chat na rat regne (‘Where there is no cat, the rat is king’).

And then Will Shakespeare used it in Henry the Fifth(1599), Act I, Scene II:

Westmoreland, speaking with King Henry V, Gloucester, Bedford, Exeter and Warwick
“But there’s a saying very old and true,
‘If that you will France win,
Then with Scotland first begin:’
For once the eagle England being in prey,
To her unguarded nest the weasel Scot
Comes sneaking and so sucks her princely eggs,
Playing the mouse in absence of the cat,
To tear and havoc more than she can eat”

The phrase first appears in its modern form in the United States in the literary and political magazine The Port folio in 1802 (2; 323):

Interesting. But what does any of this have to do with Parkinson’s?

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The road ahead: Parkinson’s research in 2018

The great ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky once said “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be” (the original quote actually came from his father, Walter). 

At the start of each year, it is a useful practise to layout what is planned for the next 12 months. This can help us better anticipate where ‘the puck’ will be, and allow us to prepare for things further ahead.

2017 was an incredible year for Parkinson’s research, and there is a lot already in place to suggest that 2018 is going to be just as good (if not better).

In this post, we will lay out what we can expect over the next 12 months with regards to the Parkinson’s-related clinical trials research of new therapies.


Charlie Munger (left) and Warren Buffett. Source: Youtube

Many readers will be familiar with the name Warren Buffett.

The charming, folksy “Oracle of Omaha” is one of the wealthiest men in the world. And he is well known for his witticisms about investing, business and life in general.

Warren Buffett. Source: Quickmeme

He regularly provides great one liners like:

“We look for three things [in good business leaders]: intelligence, energy, and integrity. If they don’t have the latter, then you should hope they don’t have the first two either. If someone doesn’t have integrity, then you want them to be dumb and lazy”

“Work for an organisation of people you admire, because it will turn you on. I always worry about people who say, ‘I’m going to do this for ten years; and if I really don’t like it very much, then I’ll do something else….’ That’s a little like saving up sex for your old age. Not a very good idea”

“Choosing your heroes is very important. Associate well, marry up and hope you find someone who doesn’t mind marrying down. It was a huge help to me”

Mr Buffett is wise and a very likeable chap.

Few people, however, are familiar with his business partner, Charlie Munger. And Charlie is my favourite of the pair.

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