The development of new medicines to treat myelin-related neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), has been given a boost by a €2.9 million (about $3.2 million) research grant awarded to the Belgian biotech company Rewind Therapeutics by the Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO).
Rewind Therapeutics will engage in an industry-academic research and development collaboration with the Stem Cell Institute at the KU Leuven (KUL) and imec, a research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies, to leverage key areas of biological and technological expertise in Flanders, Belgium.
Rewind Therapeutics is developing remyelination therapies for neurological diseases. They will design new inhibitors to block signals originating from key GPCRs (G protein-coupled receptors) that prevent the growth and migration of myelin-producing oligodendrocyte stem cells, and their subsequent maturation and differentiation.
“Therapies that promote myelin repair would represent an unprecedented approach to treating multiple progressive neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, and could prevent or reverse disability,” Ian J. Reynolds, CEO of Rewind Therapeutics, said in a press release.
“We are delighted to collaborate with world-leading teams in Flanders, and further afield to discover and advance candidate molecules that may arise from the program. We are also grateful for the financial support from VLAIO, and pleased to support its mission of advancing world-class innovation in the Flanders region,” Reynolds said.
The role of KUL in the project will be to provide expertise in nerve stem cell generation and differentiation. The institute will create new cellular screening assays to test anti-GPCR small molecules for their potential to induce nerve remyelination.
“We believe that our unique expertise with stem cells destined to become nerve cells such as oligodendrocytes, will be highly valuable as part of this new initiative to advance the understanding of re-myelination, and the identification of new approaches to repair damaged nerves,” said Catherine Verfaillie, head of the KUL Stem Cell Institute.
Imec’s role in the project will be to devise a chip-based engineering approach to measure nerve myelination.
“Imec, with a broad neurotechnology portfolio, engages in various research projects that aim to push forward the understanding of the brain and the development of therapies for neurological diseases. We are excited to leverage our multielectrode array (MEA) chip platform and neural interfacing technology to help find new therapeutics for neurological diseases,” said Dries Braeken, research and development manager at imec.
VLAIO provides encouragement and support for entrepreneurs, assisting in training, advice, investments, and research and development. They also help foreign investors establish or expand businesses, in addition to facilitating active collaborations and fostering competitiveness.