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RAR-alpha for AD
LONDON—King's College London, The Wellcome Trust and Advent Venture Partners announced recently the formation of a new U.K.-based biotechnology company, CoCo Therapeutics Ltd., to progress the research of King's College professor Dr. Jonathan Corcoran into the development of new treatments for Alzheimer's disease.
In a companion development, CoCo Therapeutics named Dr. Steve Butcher as chief operating officer (COO). Butcher was a founder and scientific director of the Fujisawa Institute of Neuroscience before holding management positions of increasing responsibility at Pharmacia AB. More recently he held executive positions in a number of biotechnology companies, including chief scientific officer at BioImage A/S and COO at TopoTarget A/S. Raj Parekh, general partner at Advent Venture Partners and the chairman of CoCo, said, "we are pleased that an individual of Steve's caliber is now leading the programs at CoCo Therapeutics. The board looks forward to working closely with Steve to evaluate RAR-alpha agonists in Alzheimer's disease."
The new company hopes to build on the success of research funded through the Wellcome Trust's Seeding Drug Discovery initiative to investigate the role of the retinoic acid receptor, RAR-alpha, and molecules that act on it in Alzheimer's disease. The Neuroscience Drug Discovery Unit at King's, led by Corcoran, has been optimizing compounds for treatment of central nervous system (CNS) disorders since 2008. The group has previously shown that molecules that act on RAR-alpha can affect multiple parts of the Alzheimer's disease pathway and therefore have the potential to produce an effective therapy that would otherwise need several points of intervention from different drugs.
CoCo Therapeutics will now take the lead compound forward into late-stage preclinical studies and clinical trials.
"Our studies have concentrated on identifying the specific retinoic acid receptor (RAR) signaling pathways in neurite outgrowth, neuronal survival and stem/progenitor cell differentiation," Corcoran says. "The identification of these pathways allows the design of retinoids; these are small molecules which can cross the blood-brain barrier. These retinoids are either agonists or antagonists and may have therapeutic potential in CNS disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke and spinal cord injury."
Funding to launch and progress CoCo Therapeutics has been provided by Advent Venture Partners, a European venture capital investor in market-leading technology and life-science businesses. Corcoran says, "I am delighted to be working with Advent on this project. Our research has shown early promise in this area and this partnership will enable us to progress the work further. This is an exciting step forward in the search for effective Alzheimer's disease treatments."
King's College London has been ranked as one of the top 30 universities in the world, according to the 2012/13 QS World University Rankings, reportedly the most widely read university comparison of its kind, and was The Sunday Times University of the Year 2010/11. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King's has more than 25,000 students—more than 10,000 of them graduate students—from nearly 140 countries, and more than 6,500 employees. King's is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment program.
The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. The trust's breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests.
Advent Life Sciences is the dedicated life-sciences team at Advent Venture Partners. It invests predominantly in early-stage and growth-equity life-science companies in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States. It has sold investments to Pfizer, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Celgene, Amgen and others.