Judith Kelleher-Andersson, Ph.D.
Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
"A therapy that is only neuroprotective will never be sufficient to halt or reverse neurodegenerative disease progression."
I came to this realization after working in the neuroscience field for over 20 years as a graduate student, as a post-graduate fellow and after working at three biotech companies, where I directed the discovery of therapeutics aimed at Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
Especially for chronic neurodegenerative disorders, like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, more is required from a therapeutic, than just reducing the loss of the remaining neurons. In founding Neuronascent, I aimed to discover novel therapies that would increase the number of new neurons in the brain regions where neurons had been lost due to disease. Further, the "neuron regeneration" should be achieved through an oral therapy, rather than through an invasive brain injection of either whole cells or of large proteins.
Regenerative medicine is not a new field, and through cellular and tissue transplant, regeneration has been quite successful, one example being bone marrow transplantation for cancer patients. Yet, this regenerative success, using cells or large protein injection has not been achieved for brain illnesses. This is due in part to safety issues, as well as the in-ability to obtain an appropriate number of functioning new neurons that integrate successfully into the brain.
If a regenerative therapy is not a cell or large protein injection, but is instead an oral medicine, that crosses the barrier between blood and brain, and that takes advantage of neuronal progenitors found in regions of even adult brain, then the above concerns should not apply. Neuronal progenitors are pushed to become new neurons by the brain's natural capacity to respond to injury. We believe, there are indeed ways to achieve a heightened response to the diseased brain's own response. In other words, the brain itself, even under chronic neurodegenerative conditions, has all the "fire-fighting equipment" ready to reduce/replace dying neurons with new neurons. Yet without therapeutic help, the water is only trickling through the firehose, even while the fire continues to rage and spread. Neuronascent's discovery program aimed to increase the rate of water flow, i.e. greater formation of new neurons, and to ensure that the water reaches the right location to douse the fire, i.e. neurons go to site of injury and survive to functionality. The discovery of non-invasive, neuron regenerative response is what makes Neuronascent so unique.
Discovering therapies of this nature may sound unachievable, but through a novel screening process that Neuronascent initiated during the first years of the company, we were able to identify small molecule therapeutics that promoted significant new neurons, and ensured these new neurons survived to functionality under neurodegenerative conditions. These small molecule candidates proved successful not only on human neuronal progenitors in a lab dish, but showed that same capacity in animal models of chronic neurological diseases.
Today our synthetic therapeutic candidates are optimized and patented. Further, these orally available candidates have been found to be safe in all testing to date. Our lead candidate for Alzheimer's and, potentially, for Parkinson's disease is now completing final safety studies required before we ask for FDA-approval to begin first-in-human safety testing.
Neuronascent is a small corporation, that we believe now has an over-sized opportunity to improve the well-being of millions of patients suffering from chronic neurodegenerative disorders that lack any disease-modifying therapeutic options. As we move toward this goal, we have built a strong track record of meeting critical drug-development milestones, of importance for investors and future pharmaceutical partners.
Judith Kelleher-Andersson, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO