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GEN News Highlights : Jul 5, 2011

Envoy Awarded MJFF Grant to Develop Oral Drug for Parkinson Disease

Compound will be designed to be effective for longer than levodopa but with fewer acute and long-term side effects.

Envoy Therapeutics has been awarded a grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) to fund the development of oral drugs for Parkinson disease (PD) that target a receptor identified by the firm using its bacTRAP® target discovery platform. The ultimate aim is to develop a treatment that provides the symptomatic benefit of dopamine-replacement therapy, but with more sustained efficacy and minimal acute and long-term side effects.

Envoy says it has already identified novel small molecule compounds that selectively modulate the target of interest, and will work to optimize compounds for potency, pharmacokinetics, and central nervous system penetration. Lead compounds will then be used to validate the target. “Modulation of this novel and highly selective target we anticipate will provide symptomatic relief but with greatly reduced side effects,” comments Steve Hitchcock, Ph.D., svp of drug discovery at Envoy.

The firm’s bacTRAP technology has been developed to identify proteins in vivo that are produced by specific cell types, but without requiring the isolation of the cells. Although the technology can be applied to a range of tissues, Envoy is focused primarily on identifying new targets and compounds against brain disorders, for which the development of cell-specific drugs has to date been hampered by the inability to determine which proteins are uniquely expressed by that cell type, it claims. In contrast with other techniques, bacTRAP allows scientists to compare qualitatively and quantitatively which proteins are produced by different cell types, and evaluate how each cell type responds to drugs at the gene and protein level.

Envoy claims it has used its technology to identify  potentially druggable protein targets produced in cell types relevant to schizophrenia, PD, Alzheimer disease, drug addiction and epilepsy. In addition to exploiting the bacTRAP platform for in-house CNS-focused programs, the firm has ongoing drug discovery collaborations with partners including Merck (diabetes and obesity), Takeda (schizophrenia), and the Scripps Research Institute (neurological and psychiatric diseases).