Strasbourg, France, October 18, 2016 – Domain Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company that specializes in the discovery and development of G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) drugs, today announces the creation of Mavalon Therapeutics, a company focused on stopping the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Medicxi, a venture fund dedicated to financing asset-centric companies, has committed up to €9m ($10m) in Mavalon.
Over the past two decades, biotech companies and clinicians have tried to develop a cure for Parkinson’s disease based on Glial cell line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (GDNF), a naturally occurring factor promoting the growth of dopamine neurons. Some clinical results were stunning, with patients experiencing a spectacular improvement in their symptoms and a return to ‘normal’ life. However, delivery of GDNF has been a major challenge. As it cannot be absorbed orally, a variety of delivery methods have been tested including direct pumping into the brain, intranasal delivery and gene therapy. Newly formed Mavalon Therapeutics is developing the first orally available small molecule able to induce GDNF production within the brain of Parkinson’s patients, a treatment that will bring benefits to a larger population than the current intra-brain delivery of GDNF.
The drug candidate, a positive allosteric modulator of the metabotropic glutamate receptor type 3 (mGluR3 PAM), was discovered and initially developed by Domain Therapeutics with the support of the Michael J. Fox Foundation. This program is the third Parkinson’s disease drug candidate discovered by Domain Therapeutics and further developed by an asset-centric company. An mGluR4 PAM is ready to enter Phase II at Prexton Therapeutics and a dual adenosine A2A/A1 receptor antagonist is in preclinical development at Kaldi Pharma. Both treatments address Parkinson’s symptoms while Mavalon’s drug is aimed at stopping the progression of the disease and at reversing its effects.
“Mavalon’s asset clearly fits with Medicxi’s investment strategy supporting biopharma companies at the forefront of innovation,” said Michèle Ollier, partner at Medicxi Ventures. “The mGluR3 PAM-mediated GDNF induction certainly represents a very promising approach with strong market potential.”
“We are very proud to have Medicxi as investor partner in Mavalon. This investment highlights Domain Therapeutics’ expertise in the GPCR area and its ability to repeatedly select first-in-class drug candidates for major therapeutic indications,” said Pascal Neuville, CEO of Domain Therapeutics. “We are confident in the capacity of the Mavalon team to rapidly move this asset forward towards the clinical stage and make this promising treatment available to the Parkinson’s disease patient population.”
About Parkinson’s disease and mGluR3 PAM program
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive neurological disorder characterized by a number of symptoms including tremors, limb stiffness, slowness of movements and difficulties with posture and balance. It is estimated that more than 10 million people worldwide live with the disease. As Parkinson’s disease is more prevalent in people over 60 the incidence of the disease is expected to increase along with the average age of the population.
The Glial cell line-Derived Neurotropic Factor (GDNF) is a growth factor promoting neuronal survival and growth that focused the attention of the pharma industry as the basis of a disease-modifying therapy. The main challenge remains the delivery of this growth factor. Several ongoing trials use different routes and modes of direct administration of GDNF (either invasive based on surgery or via viral particles) with limited results due to delivery heterogeneity.
mGluR3 receptor has been shown – by Ferdinando Nicoletti’s group in Italy – to promote GDNF production when activated by glutamate release. The glutamate is released by degenerating neurons in the brain of Parkinson’s patients. The mGluR3 PAM drug candidate that Mavalon is developing will further induce a physiological GDNF production at the site of neuron degeneration.
Medicxi Ventures is a life sciences-focused venture capital firm recently spun out of Index Ventures. One of Europe’s largest dedicated life sciences VC firms, Medicxi Ventures has offices in London, Jersey (UK) and Geneva (CH). Past and existing portfolio companies include GenMab (Copenhagen: GEN.CO), PanGenetics (acquired by Abbott), Minerva Neurosciences (Nasdaq: NERV), Egalet (Nasdaq: EGLT), Molecular Partners (Swiss: MOLN.SW), Versartis (Nasdaq: VSAR), Levicept, XO1 (acquired by J&J), OncoEthix (acquired by Merck), E3Bio Ltd, Gadeta BV, and some others.
About Domain Therapeutics
Domain Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company based in Strasbourg, France, dedicated to the discovery and early development of small molecules targeting G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), one of the most important classes of drug targets. Domain identifies and develops new drug candidates, allosteric modulators and biased ligands, through its innovative approach and distinctive technologies.
Domain Therapeutics has developed an innovative business model based on the development by asset-centric companies of its proprietary pipeline of preclinical candidates for central nervous system disorders and cancer (Kaldi Pharma (FR), Prexton Therapeutics (CH) and Mavalon Therapeutics (UK)). These asset-centric companies are attracting investment for focused development programs and exit is through a trade sale at an appropriate inflection point. Domain Therapeutics is also a shareholder in PeptiMimesis Pharma (FR) and has a subsidiary, Domain Therapeutics NA Inc., in Montreal (CA).