Parkinson’s charity backs new biotech NRG Therapeutics

Parkinson’s UK charity strikes a £1 million deal partnership with NRG Therapeutics for developing drugs aimed at mitochondria.

The UK’s leading charity for this disease Parkinson’s UK aims to support people with the condition through research, wider awareness, campaigning and now investing in biotechnology companies [1]. The charity recently invested £1 million into a new biotech company NRG Therapeutics [2].

Longevity.Technology: Every hour, two people in the UK are told they have Parkinson’s disease. The progressive movement disorder affects approximately 1 million people aged 56 years or over and this new collaboration between a start-up and a charity is an expansion on the successful cancer research funding models.

The TRL score for this Longevity.Technology domain is currently set at: ‘Principles are demonstrated through experimentation.’

The TRL score for the technology addressed in this article is: ‘Preliminary idea with well characterised theoretical case.’

Founded in 2018, NRG Therapeutics was co-founded by Dr Neil Miller, Dr Richard Rutter and Mr Grant Hawthorne. The company focuses on mitochondria treatments for neurodegenerative diseases which include conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease and motor neurone disease. This new seed investment is based on furthering recent research which has shown a direct correlation between mitochondria dysfunction and the loss of dopamine cells. The aim of the collaboration is to develop a drug that could identify small molecules that are likely to reach the brain and protect the mitochondria inside the cells which create dopamine.

As the powerhouses of cells, one of the functions of the mitochondria is managing the calcium ions that travel through the cell when the cell is active. However, the calcium ions can become harmful if not removed. When the mitochondria have too much calcium, they stop producing energy as efficiently and create an overload that triggers the pore in the mitochondria cell (the mitochondrial permeability transition pore) to open. The opening of this pore begins the cell death process which is linked to the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells [2].

If the initial testing of the new molecules proves positive results, it will go through a pre-clinical stage which would contain models of Parkinson’s disease. Ultimately it would then proceed to human trials to determine the safety and efficacy of the treatment. Dr Neil Miller, CEO of NRG Therapeutics stated, “…. we welcome this endorsement of our scientific strategy and look forward to partnering with Parkinson’s UK in developing first-in-class molecules for the disease-modifying treatment of Parkinson’s.” [3]

The collaboration between the charity and NRG Therapeutics is not the first for the charity which is also partnering with the US company Neurolixis to combat the side effects of Parkinson’s drugs. Through their Virtual Biotech Programme, the charity is investing in biotech companies to create faster and better solutions for those with Parkinson’s disease, making these partnerships and their follow-on funding rounds ones to watch closely. The new drugs obtained from these collaborations could change or potentially prevent the effects of diseases like Parkinson’s.