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Optimization of Morphomer-Based Alpha-synuclein PET Tracers

This grant builds upon the research from a prior grant: New Imaging Agents for Parkinson's Disease and Related Disorders

Study Rationale:
The team at AC Immune has discovered a variety of compounds that can bind to a specific Parkinson’s disease-associated form of the protein alpha-synuclein. AC Immune has previously shown that at least two of these compounds can safely go into the living brain. When tagged with a special label to form a “tracer”, these compounds can be used to visualize clumps of alpha-synuclein in a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. Medical physicists and neurologists at Skåne University Hospital are experts in PET imaging and will partner with AC Immune to test new clinical candidate tracers.

The project's aim is to discover and test highly sensitive tracers that allow live visualization of the brain to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s disease (and related disorders). 

Study Design:
The team at AC Immune plans to manufacture and test a variety of novel candidate tracers to determine whether they bind to Parkinson’s disease-associated forms of alpha-synuclein. Then they will test whether these tracers are safe to administer and whether they bind specifically to alpha-synuclein.

Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s disease:
Identification of a suitable alpha-synuclein PET tracer would allow for early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. In addition, it could expedite the development of new treatments for Parkinson’s by helping to assess the effectiveness of those treatments in a more rapid and sensitive way.

Next Steps for Development:
AC Immune has already developed one safe and promising tracer molecule, and the Skåne University Hospital team will test this tracer in its neurology clinic. In parallel, AC Immune will continue to look for new candidate tracers that have suitable binding and safety properties and pass the most promising new candidate(s) on to the clinical researchers for human testing.

Additional Support:
Grants made through the Ken Griffin Alpha-synuclein Imaging Competition are made possible in large part through a leadership gift from Ken Griffin, Founder and CEO of the Chicago-based global investment firm Citadel. Additional funding for this project was provided through the generous support of the Demoucelle Parkinson Charity and the Stop Parkinson Walk.


  • Marie H. Kosco-Vilbois, PhD

    Lausanne Switzerland

  • Oskar Hansson, MD, PhD

    Lund Sweden

  • Ruth Luthi-Carter, PhD

    Leicester United Kingdom

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