The Irish professor whose company has begun a new approach for treating Parkinson’s has told IrishCentral that he has high hopes that it will be effective in treating the disease in humans.

The company, Inflazome, just received $1 million in funding from the Michael J..Fox Foundation which is the leading funder of new research in the field. Inflamzone has raised $40 million overall.

In an interview, Professor of Immunology Luke O’Neill of Trinity College stated he believed the compound that attacked the inflammation in the immune cells was “druggable;” that is capable of being given in drug form to humans and that the compound had cured Parkinson’s in mice. He stated it had already shown promise in lab conditions on human immune cells.

He explained the company’s intent when launching it in 2016.

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Inflazome is delighted to continue our partnership with @MichaelJFoxOrg to develop brain imaging probes for patient diagnosis and the clinical development of our NLRP3 inhibitors in neurodegenerative diseases.

— Inflazome (@inflazome) March 25, 2019

"Animal models and clinical data suggests there is tremendous opportunity to stop the cycle of chronic inflammation in a range of diseases,” Professor O’Neill said.

"We believe that targeting the inflammasome has tremendous potential for a wide range of inflammatory diseases where current treatments are ineffective."

The NLRP3 inflammasome is overactive in a broad range of serious medical conditions driven by harmful inflammation. The new drug specifically attacks that issue.

Nature Magazine recently reported that “Hyperstimulated immune cells in the brain are emerging as a hallmark feature of most neurodegenerative disorders—and Parkinson’s disease is no exception.”

The drug could be used to attack several other diseases including neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's as well as inflammatory bowel disease and cardiovascular diseases.

O’Neill stated he was hopeful if the drug showed promise it could be fast-tracked, especially in the US where the FDA has the power to expedite promising drugs.

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Prof Luke O’Neill on winning the #ERCAdG @ERC_Research award says: “We are very excited at the prospect of new discoveries that will improve our understanding of inflammatory diseases." Find out more: @TCDdeanresearch @laoneill111.

— Trinity College Dublin (@tcddublin) March 28, 2019

The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience researcher Professor Matt Cooper, who is a co-founder of Inflazome, said drug companies had traditionally tried to treat neurodegenerative disorders by blocking neurotoxic proteins that build up in the brain and cause disease.

“We have taken an alternative approach by focusing on immune cells in the brain called microglia that can clear these toxic proteins,” he said.

“With diseases of aging such as Parkinson’s, our immune system can become over-activated, with microglia causing inflammation and damage to the brain.

“MCC950 (the compound that the new drug will be manufactured from) effectively ‘cooled the brains on fire’, turning down microglial inflammatory activity, and allowing neurons to function normally.”

Meanwhile, in a related story, drug giant Novartis announced it is acquiring IFM TRE, a similar company to Inflazome in a deal that could reach $1.6 billion.

Novartis will pay $310 million upfront for the Boston-based inflammation company. IFM TRE is “very much an early-stage company, with one compound, IFM-2427, in an early Phase I clinical trial, and two preclinical assets,” the company said.  

Novartis believes that the drug similar to the Inflazome one could be proven effective against Parkinson's and other diseases.

In the case of Inflazome, O’Neill cautioned, however, that many promising drugs that cured conditions in mice did not have the same impact in humans but that so far the compound has performed well.

”It has jumped all the fences.”

Clinical trials will begin by the end of 2019 in Australia he said, where it was much more cost effective to conduct trials.

The theory behind the drug is that Parkinson’s and other brain degenerative diseases are caused by inflammation. O’Neill believes the new drug will calm that inflammation and arrest, slow or destroy the disease.

He stated when the compound was first discovered by Pfizer in 1997 no significant use could be found for it.

However, years later, he and his team discovered its anti-inflammatory processes. and realized its potential:

"Parkinson’s was the disease we quickly decided to zero in on,” he states.

As to future potential, he pointed out that a rival company in the same inflammatory area had just been bought for $315 million by drug giant Novartis. That was an indication of a major new focus on the inflammatory issue, he said.

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