Biotech company Alterity Therapeutics (ASX: ATH) has received funding from the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research to determine optimal dosing of its lead drug candidate ATH434 in Parkinson’s disease clinical trials.
This funding for US$495,000 (A$641,500) is the second grant the company has received from the foundation and will be used to evaluate the pharmacologic profile of ATH434 in a primate model to determine dosages for future trials.
Alterity is attempting to treat the underlying causes of Parkinsonian diseases, particularly multiple system atrophy (MSA).
Phase one clinical trials evaluated the safety, tolerability and pharmacokinetics of its lead drug ATH434 in healthy adult and older adult volunteers.
A phase two clinical trial for MSA is on track to start later this year, according to newly appointed Alterity chief executive officer Dr David Stamler.
“ATH434 targets alpha-synuclein misfolding and aggregation through the redistribution of excess labile iron … The potential to expand into other Parkinsonian disorders that implicate alpha-synuclein has always been part of our strategy and this funding allows us to take another step towards realising a program in Parkinson’s disease,” he said.
Dr Stamler described the Michael J Fox Foundation as “an incredible organisation at the frontier of research and treatment innovation for Parkinson’s disease, which remains incurable and affects an estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide”.
Second most common age-related neurodegenerative disorder
According to Alterity, Parkinson’s disease is the second most common age-related neurodegenerative disorder to Alzheimer’s disease. It occurs when brain cells that make dopamine, a chemical that underlies control of movement, degenerate and ultimately die.
The condition is considered a “movement disorder” because it can cause tremor, slowness, stiffness and problems with balance and walking. However, it can also cause non-motor symptoms including constipation, depression and impaired memory.
It is a lifelong and progressive disease, meaning symptoms slowly worsen over time.
There are a small amount of therapies that can treat some symptoms, but there is currently no cure and people with Parkinson’s disease urgently need new treatments to slow or stop disease progression and improve quality of life.
“Aggregates of misfolded alpha-synuclein protein are widely distributed in the brains of individuals affected by these disorders, and by reducing their build-up, ATH434 has potential to improve the motor and non-motor symptoms of these devastating conditions,” Dr Werner Poewe, a researcher for the Michael J Fox Foundation and Professor of Neurology at the Medical University Innsbruck in Austria, said.
“I look forward to seeing the results from the dose optimisation studies for Parkinson’s disease clinical trials and future development in this indication,” he added.
The project will be led by Vanderbilt University Medical Centre vice president of non-clinical development Dr Margaret Bradbury and associate professor of neurology Dr Daniel Claassen, as well as Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health head of the PD Research Laboratory, Dr David Finkelstein.
Hunting for a cure
The Michael J Fox Foundation was launched in 2000 by iconic Hollywood actor and Back to the Future star Michael J Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991 at age 29.
The foundation is dedicated to finding a cure for the disease through an aggressively funded research agenda and to ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s today.
The foundation claims to have funded over US$1 billion (A$1.3 billion) in research programs to date.