Biotech company awarded Innovate UK grant to expand search for rare disease therapies

Oxford-based SynaptixBio, whose aim is to find a treatment for TUBB4A-related leukodystrophies, has been awarded a £490,000 BioMedical Catalyst grant from Innovate UK to tackle less common variants of the disease.

TUBB4A-related leukodystrophies are a group of rare neurodegenerative diseases primarily affecting young children. They are caused by a mutation in the TUBB4A gene, resulting in disruption to the signals between nerve cells in the brain.

Currently, there is no cure; SynaptixBio is said to be the first and only company developing a therapy.

Hypomyelination with Atrophy of the Basal ganglia and Cerebellum (H-ABC) is the most severe form of the disease, and SynaptixBio is already in the process of developing a therapy that will hopefully go into clinical trials next year; the other forms range in severity but all have life-changing impacts for those affected and their families.

Laure Humbert, Head of Research and Preclinical Development at SynaptixBio, said: “This funding will enable us to give hope to more patients and their families, who currently have none. We are extremely grateful to Innovate UK.”

Earlier this year SynaptixBio successfully led a second round of investment, taking the total up to £13.2m.

Research to date has been supported by the world’s leading centre for leukodystrophy studies, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), under a sponsored research agreement; however, the research supported by this Innovate UK grant will be carried out in the UK.

SynaptixBio has signed a worldwide exclusive license to intellectual property from CHOP, enabling commercialisation of a treatment​.

In addition, the company has achieved the prestigious Orphan Drug Designation from the US Food and Drug Administration, which allows tax credits against research costs, as well as exempting them from some regulatory fees.

This adds to the award of a Rare Paediatric Disease designation, with SynaptixBio now setting its sights on a Priority Review Voucher to accelerate market access. It is hoped that in-human clinical trials can begin in 2024.

SynaptixBio is using antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) technology to tackle TUBB4A-related leukodystrophies; ASOs can alter the expression of genes, in this case a specific ASO molecule targets the mutated TUBB4A gene to stop it forming toxic proteins, which in turn help build the cells that form myelin sheaths surrounding nerve fibres in the brain. With the toxic protein suppressed, other proteins step in to help form normal myelin.

The technology has been proven in the treatment of other dystrophies, including Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and is quick and cost-effective to develop.

Laure Humbert added: “It is an incredibly exciting time for rare disease research; new technologies are allowing us to find potential therapies more quickly and with a higher chance of success. With support from bodies like Innovate UK, we can really help alleviate the suffering of the many affected families across the UK.”

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