Yesterday Austrian biotech company AFFiRiS AG announced a €6 million euro (more than $8 million US dollars) grant from the European Union to continue developing vaccines against Parkinson’s disease (PD) and multiple system atrophy (MSA).
The Michael J. Fox Foundation granted AFFiRiS $1.5 million in November 2011 to conduct the Phase I clinical study of its PD vaccine drug candidate, PD01. Results from that study are expected later this year.
Both the PD and MSA vaccines target the protein alpha-synuclein, which clumps in the cells of people of both diseases. This protein aggregation leads to cell dysfunction and cell death. A therapy that could prevent or break up the clumps may be able to slow or stop the disease process.
“It’s important to bear in mind that PD01 is still in the early stages of clinical testing,” says Kuldip Dave, PhD, senior associate director of research programs at MJFF. “But we’re definitely paying close attention to the AFFiRiS approach. This is the first study to test a vaccine for Parkinson’s disease. If successful, it could be a game changer.”
The European Union funding is another success of the MJFF de-risking model, which supports early-stage research to capture data — such as on proof of concept or safety — that would make the project more attractive to larger, more risk-averse funders. The AFFiRiS project was previously funded €25 million (more than $34 million US dollars) by venture capitalists after the initial MJFF grant.
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