Virtual biotech company launched to battle Parkinson’s

08 March 2017

In a world-first type of collaboration, Parkinson’s UK and the University of Sheffield have launched a joint venture biotech company, Keapstone Therapeutics. Parkinson’s UK has allocated 1 million GBP over the next sixteen months to further develop compounds that boost the internal cellular defence mechanisms against oxidative stress. These compounds were discovered by IMI’s European Lead Factory.

Dr Richard Mead (University of Sheffield) confirmed the pivotal role of the European Lead Factory: ‘It would have been absolutely impossible without the high-quality work that the European Lead Factory provided. From assisting with protein production, the optimisation of the HTS assay, developing a totally new biophysical assay, the hit expansion and medicinal chemistry, new protein constructs, and finally also solving inhibitor-bound protein crystal structures.’ This formed a solid package of a well-validated target and well-characterised compounds with attractive physicochemical properties.

Dr Mead also acknowledged the superior performance of the Joint European Compound Library. He works with a challenging protein-protein interaction target, Kelch-like ECH-associated protein-1 (KEAP1) and Nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 (Nrf2), and a challenging disease area that requires the future drug molecules to penetrate the blood–brain barrier. ‘Many, including ourselves, have screened various commercial and academic libraries, but never found anything useful. The diversity and quality of the Joint European Compound Library is not available anywhere else.’ Arthur Roach, Director of Research at Parkinson's UK, said: ‘We were convinced that these early results are really good starting points in developing new treatments for Parkinson's and formed Keapstone Therapeutics as a new way to further this research’.

Parkinson's UK aims to improve the lives of people with Parkison’s disease. This is the first time that a patient organization is involved in a single asset company. Currently 1.2 million people in Europe are affected by Parkinson’s disease. This devastating condition is causing an enormous economic and social burden. Although a lot of research has been directed towards this neurodegenerative disease, it remains incurable.

Read the press release from Parkinson’s UK and University of Sheffield.