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Keapstone Therapeutics created out of Sheffield Uni and Parkinson’s UK link

Published on 08/03/17 at 03:03pm

The University of Sheffield and Parkinson’s UK has created, in a first-of-a-kind, a virtual biotech company for developing therapies against Parkinson’s disease. The new company will be named Keapstone Therapeutics and shall be backed to the tune of £1 million.

The partnership is the first time that a charity has directly approached researchers to develop therapies in one particular research programme. The press release regarding the collaboration has stated its aim: “to combat the lost opportunities in drug discovery and early clinical development caused by the changing pharma landscape”.

The partnership will build on a decade of research by the University’s Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN). Dr Richard Mead who works in the institute discovered a new class of compounds that can activate “the brain cell defence system”. The system helps protect the brain from ‘oxidative stress’ – known to cause a damaging build-up of free-radicals and associated with those suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Director of Research at Parkinson’s UK, Arthur Roach, said: “Due to the funding gap in early stage drug discovery, there are promising scientific breakthroughs for Parkinson’s happening every day that are not being picked up and developed by commercial companies. This major new programme of work will allow us to act in a similar way to a small biotech company. However, unlike a commercial company, our primary goal is the creation of new treatments to improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s, regardless of commercial considerations.”

The last part is an indication of the angle of research that will be undertaken by the project. Pharmaceutical companies differ in their research models because they have to ensure that the drug that is produced will be suitably profitable – whereas this is not the principal concern for this new biotech. With this said, both the University of Sheffield and Parkinson’s UK will have the opportunity to commercialise any successful compounds that are developed as a result of the project.

Ben Hargreaves

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