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The University of Oxford and Selvita (WSE: SLV), one of the largest contract research organisations in Europe, are collaborating on drug discovery in the area of Parkinson's disease

Woman working at lab bench © John Cairns

Although Parkinson's disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, affecting more than 7 million people worldwide, there are only symptomatic therapies available.

At the molecular level, it is caused by the build-up of a small protein called alpha-synuclein which forms aggregates inside vulnerable neurons. The inability of cells to efficiently clear these aggregates may lead to the death of neurons and the emergence of characteristic symptoms of the disease.

Professor George Tofaris and his team have identified key protein disposal factors that affect alpha-synuclein aggregation, and could be important drug targets for disease modification.

Taking advantage of Selvita's experience in the areas of protein degradation and neuroscience, Professor Tofaris and his team have worked with Selvita to develop promising prototype compounds that efficiently promote the clearance of alpha-synuclein aggregates. The project is now being continued in order to progress the compounds further along the drug discovery pipeline by improving their pharmacological properties and their efficacy.

'There is extensive evidence from genetics and pathology implicating alpha-synuclein aggregates as the cause of Parkinson's. Therefore, promoting the ability of nerve cells to rid themselves of these aggregates is a rational therapeutic strategy in this group of diseases', said George Tofaris.

'The combination of Selvita's drug discovery expertise and the world-class innovative research conducted at the University of Oxford, create this exquisite collaboration which holds an immense potential to address the urgent need for disease-modifying treatments to combat Parkinson's disease. We are very excited to continue working with Prof. Tofaris and his Team', added Edyta Jaworska, Vice President Sales, Drug Discovery Europe and Asia at Selvita.