Nine Square Therapeutics lands $4.5m to advance development of novel Parkin activators

Grant from Michael J Fox Foundation will accelerate research into activators that induce clearance of dysfunctional mitochondria and protect neurons.

Nine Square Therapeutics, a biotech that aims to discover and leverage novel small molecules to treat severe neurodegenerative diseases, has announced that it has been awarded a research grant from The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF). Valued at $4.5 million, the grant will be used to accelerate the development of novel Parkin activators for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Nine Square was founded by life sciences venture capital firm Apple Tree Partners (ATP) and scientists at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). Nine Square’s founders have backgrounds in computer-aided drug design, computational structural biology, biophysics and applying machine learning and AI to experimental data, and these backgrounds were used to build a biotech that combines phenotypic image-based cell profiling, computational molecular modeling and chemistry with clinical research in order develop better drugs faster.

Nine Square Therapeutics lands $4.5m to advance development of novel Parkin activators
Autophagosomes play a key role in autophagy, the process that ensures misfolded, aggregation-prone proteins and damaged organelles, such as dysfunctional mitochondria, are removed efficiently

Longevity.Technology: Parkin is an intracellular protein that regulates mitochondrial quality control by selectively promoting the degradation of dysfunctional mitochondria, a process called mitophagy; mutations in the gene that code for this protein are strongly associated with early-onset PD as mutations lead to a loss of Parkin function, with different mutations affecting different mechanisms [1].

Nine Square has developed small molecule candidates that promote Parkin activity to induce clearance of dysfunctional mitochondria and thereby protect dopaminergic neurons. Focusing on boosting autophagy and mitophagy, the body’s own cellular degrading machinery, the company has programs targeting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and lysosomal storage diseases, as well as PD.

“The Michael J Fox Foundation grant will go toward accelerating the identification of drug candidates that may one day deliver meaningful benefits to people with PD,” said Tina Schwabe, PhD, vice president and head of biology of Nine Square Therapeutics.

Nine Square Therapeutics lands $4.5m to advance development of novel Parkin activators
Tina Schwabe, PhD

“In preclinical testing, our Parkin activators have demonstrated the ability to promote mitochondrial turnover and improve mitochondrial function in cellular models of Parkinson’s disease. We look forward to using these funds to advance the nomination of our clinical candidate.”

“Research in neurodegenerative disease is experiencing rapid innovation, and MJFF is pleased to support researchers at emerging companies like Nine Square that have a differentiated approach to drug and target discovery and are committed to ushering in a brighter future for patients around the globe,” said Jessica Tome Garcia, PhD, associate director of research programs at MJFF.


Photograph of Tina Schwabe/autophagy graphic courtesy of Nine Square Therapeutics