Find Therapeutics, SATT Conectus Team to Develop New MS Therapy

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by Marta Figueiredo, PhD |

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Find Therapeutics and SATT Conectus have joined forces to develop a promising therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS) and optic neuritis based on a new class of compounds that shows the potential to regenerate myelin.

Myelin is the fatty protective sheath around nerve fibers that’s progressively lost in MS in a process called demyelination. Optic neuritis, which is common in MS patients, is marked by inflammatory damage to the optic nerve that sends visual signals to the brain.

SATT Conectus’ agreement with FIND licenses the work of Dominique Bagnard, PhD, at the Strasbourg Institute for drug discovery & development (IMS), France, whose team conducted the research that resulted in the therapy’s development.

SATT Conectus, part of a French tech transfer acceleration network, is designed to promote collaborations between public research laboratories in a region of France and pharmaceutical companies to boost French innovation.

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“Conectus has invested in this innovative project to optimize this therapeutic tool and demonstrate its pharmacological efficacy,” Caroline Dreyer, SATT Conectus’ president, said in a press release.

“Thanks to our network we have been able to attract biotech startup Find Therapeutics who expressed interest in this exciting program. This is a nice example of technology transfer resulting from synergy between industry, an academic research team, and the SATT Conectus,” Dreyer said.

In MS, the immune system wrongly recognizes myelin as foreign, mounting immune responses against it. Without myelin, electrical impulses traveling along nerve fibers are slower and less efficient, and nerve cells in the central nervous system (CNS; the brain and spinal cord) are more vulnerable to degeneration.

Myelin damage in the CNS attracts immature, stem-like cells called oligodendrocyte precursor cells to the lesion site, where they mature into oligodendrocytes — myelin-producing cells capable of restoring the myelin sheath.

While these progenitor cells are also present in MS lesions, myelin repair is incomplete or absent. As such, efforts are focused on identifying potential approaches to promote oligodendrocyte maturation and remyelination to preserve and perhaps restore nerve cell function.

An effective remyelinating approach could revolutionize the MS therapeutic landscape, as it has the potential to not only slow disease progression, but also promote the recovery of lost function.

Philippe Douville, PhD, Find Therapeutics’ CEO, said that “a new therapy promoting remyelination in MS and other diseases involving demyelination would be tremendously beneficial to patients and of great interest to the medical community.”

“We are actively advancing the program in preclinical studies and expect to initiate the first human clinical studies when given the authorization by regulatory agencies,” Douville said.

The new therapeutic approach, designed to selectively promote myelin repair, is the result of more than 10 years of research led by Bagnard, of the IMS’s laboratory of myelin biopathology, neuroprotection and therapeutic strategies, part of the University of Strasbourg and the French Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM).

“We combined our extensive expertise in developmental neurobiology and our unique drug design approach to demonstrate the therapeutic benefit of [suppressing] inhibitory factors controlling demyelination and remyelination in several experimental models of MS,” said Bagnard, also an associate professor at University of Strasbourg and the director of Strasbourg Graduate School of Biotechnology, France.

“We had to disentangle the mechanism of action of our therapeutic concept while developing a set of companion assays to obtain the right drug with the expected impact and best safety profile,” Bagnard said.

Initial preclinical pharmacology studies, funded by SATT Conectus, showed that, by overcoming the molecular barriers of remyelination in MS, the therapy could restore myelin in models of the disease.

“Find Therapeutics and Prof. Dominique Bagnard’s team are launched on a collaboration dedicated to advancing this innovative technology that could one day be accessible to patients,” Dreyer said.

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