Future generations may treat conditions like Parkinson’s with DNA rather than drugs. By manipulating the DNA within a given cell, researchers can cause that cell to generate proteins that they usually do not produce.
This technique is called gene therapy, and it is currently being clinically tested in people with Parkinson’s.
Recently, one biotech firm (Voyager Therapeutics) has provided new data on an ongoing clinical trial and another company (Axovant Sciences) has announced the initiation of a clinical study.
In today’s post, we will discuss what gene therapy is, evaluate what the first company has achieved, and compare it with the clinical trial that is just starting.
At the annual American Neurology Association (ANA) meeting this year, we got an update on an ongoing clinical trial for Parkinson’s being conducted by a company called Voyager Therapeutics.
What is gene therapy?
This week a biotech company called Voyager Therapeutics provided an update regarding a gene therapy approach for people with severe Parkinson’s.
Gene therapy is an experimental therapeutic approach that involves inserting new DNA into cells using a virus. The introduced DNA can help a cell to produce proteins that it usually wouldn’t produce, and this can help to alleviate the motor features of Parkinson’s.
In today’s post we will discuss what gene therapy is, what Voyager Therapeutics is trying to do, and outline what their update reported.
There are 4 phases to the clinical trial process of testing new treatment for use in humans:
- Phase I determines if a treatment is safe in humans (this is conducted in an ‘open label’ manner)
- Phase II ‘double blindly’ assesses in a small cohort of subjects if the treatment is effective
- Phase III involves randomly and blindly testing the treatment in a very large cohort of patients
- Phase IV (often called Post Marketing Surveillance Trials) are studies conducted after the treatment has been approved for clinical use
(‘Open label’ refers to both the investigator and the participants in a study knowing what treatment is being administered; while ‘double blind’ testing refers to studies in which the participants and the investigators do not know whether the participant is receiving the active treatment or an inert control treatment until the end of the study).
Based on the successful completion of their Phase I clinical trials for their gene therapy treatment called VY-AADC (Click here to read more about this), Boston-based biotech firm Voyager Therapeutics approached the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the goal of shifting their clinical trial programme into Phase II testing.
What is gene therapy?