Pfizer investigates GDNF treatment for Parkinson’s disease

Pfizer has struck a deal with MedGenesis Therapeutix to license its glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) protein and convection enhanced delivery (CED) technology to investigate potential treatments for Parkinson’s disease.

The announcement comes after early development of GDNF was backed by corporate and Parkinson’s charity partners, including Parkinson’s UK, the Cure Parkinson’s Trust and the Michael J Fox Foundation. Their belief in the potential of the treatment to halt progression of the disease provided funding and support for phase I and phase II trials. 

The phase II trial, being conducted at North Bristol NHS Trust in the UK, is assessing the efficacy of infusing GDNF directly into the brain using CED technology to allow the drug to cross the blood brain barrier.

Speaking about the news that Pfizer will progress the treatment, Steve Ford, chief executive at Parkinson’s UK said: “By providing funding when industry opted not to progress further research, we’ve breathed life back into a drug which had been shelved for many years.

“We’re delighted Pfizer has recognised the potential of GDNF, and is backing what could be a serious game-changer in the treatment of Parkinson’s.

“For years, the potential of GDNF as a treatment for Parkinson’s has remained one of the great unanswered research questions in the field, despite early promising signals.”

Dr Erich Mohr, MedGenesis’ CEO commented, “We believe that delivering drugs, including proteins, precisely to the regions of the brain where they are required will allow the potential for better treatments for a whole range of central nervous system (CNS) disease, and opens up the opportunity for the potential development of truly disease-modifying treatments of neurological diseases. We are delighted to be collaborating with Pfizer to complete our GDNF programme, and we hope that this collaboration will result in potential treatments for people living with Parkinson’s that could radically alter the course of their disease.”

Under the terms of the agreement MedGenesis will receive an upfront option fee and, upon exercise of the option by Pfizer, will be eligible for further milestone and royalty payments.

Michael Ehlers, SVP Neuroscience Research Unit, at Pfizer, added, “With limited treatment options currently available, Parkinson’s disease is a devastating illness for patients and families. We believe that this collaboration with MedGenesis has the potential to provide the first disease-modifying treatment that slows the progressive decline in patients, consistent with our commitment to making a difference in areas of high unmet medical need.”

Last month Austrian company AFFiRiS announced that it would be taking its Parkinson’s disease vaccine against the protein alpha-synuclein PD01A into phase II trials.


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