Earlier this month the Michael J Fox Foundation (MJFF) announced that Vancouver based Allon Therapeutics had been able to improve motor function and brain pathology in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease (PD).
What makes this data interesting is that it adds further support to the potential efficacy of the company’s lead product, davunetide, in a wide range of neurodegenerative disorders.
Davunetide (AL-108) is a microtubule-interacting peptide based on an eight amino acid sequence, Asn-Ala-Pro-Val-Ser-Ile-Pro-Gln, single letter code NAPVSIPQ (NAP) derived from activity-dependent neuroprotective protein (ADNP). It has been shown to have neuroprotective properties.
Davunetide can be administered by IV or intranasally and crosses the blood/brain barrier. It is effective at promoting neurite growth, restoring transmission between nerve cells and untangling some of the damage seen in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. References to the scientific publications and mechanism of action can be found on the Allon Therapeutics website.
Currently it is being developed for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), schizophrenia cognitive impairment and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Davunetide is in a phase 3 clinical trial for progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a subtype of FTD.
The company’s strategy is to pursue a fast-track to market in a small indication such as PSP. This is makes a lot of sense for a small biotechnology company with limited funding. Successful approval in PSP will significantly increase the value of the company and improve the terms of any future licensing/partnering deals.
The hope for davunetide is that it will prevent disease progression in disorders such as AD and provide neuroprotective prophylaxisis prior to surgery that carries a high risk of memory loss e.g. heart bypass and coronary artery graft surgery (CABG).
While davunetide may not be a cure for AD, being able to slow down disease progression is something that has considerable value. Given that new imaging biomarkers are likely to provide the opportunity to detect AD much earlier, the market opportunity for early treatment is set to increase.
Many families and caregivers would welcome a drug that delays further cognitive decline and memory loss in their loved ones.
On the basis of the promising preclinical results, I think we can expect to see further clinical research on davenutide in Parkinson’s Disease.