“Death complex” in neurons discovered

Novel compounds that act as molecular spacers in the brain prevent neurodegeneration

29-Jun-2021 - Germany

High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) provides seed funding for the neuro start-up FundaMental Pharma GmbH (FMP), a spin-off of the Interdisciplinary Center for Neuroscience (IZN) at Heidelberg University. FMP scientists have discovered a “death complex” in neurons whose activation leads to neurodegeneration. With the identification of a novel class of drugs, the FMP has also laid the foundation for successfully combating life-threatening neurological diseases. The financing makes it now possible to prepare for clinical studies.

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Sometimes we are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time or get too close to other people. Nerve cells are not protected from this mishap either. For them, the proximity of certain surface receptors, together with a wrong choice of their location, can make the difference between life and death in neurotransmitter-mediated communication.

Professor Bading, one of the founders of FMP, has pursued this problem, which centers on the toxic properties of the glutamate-gated NMDA-type neurotransmitter receptor, over the past decades. With the discovery of a molecular pairing between NMDA receptor and another membrane protein, TRPM4, which is threatening to neurons, he and his Heidelberg team have achieved a scientific breakthrough. The FMP has already identified a class of drugs that keeps the deadly intruder at bay and will be tested on patients in two to three years.

Millions of people worldwide experience the dramatic consequences of neurodegenerative diseases, including memory loss, slurred speech, debilitation, loss of control over one’s body, personality dissolution and death. FMP’s new class of drugs is expected to halt and, in the best case, stop diseases such as Alzheimer’s dementia, vascular dementia, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Huntington’s disease. In this way, not only unspeakable personal suffering could be reduced, but also a positive contribution could be made to our social fabric and our health care system.

"The new pharmacological mode of action of ‘interface inhibitors’ that we have discovered raises the hope that currently untreatable neurodegenerative diseases in humans could be mitigated. Interface inhibitors open up entirely new possibilities, both in terms of drug treatments and gene therapy approaches", Professor Hilmar Bading, Scientific Founder of FundaMental Pharma.

"It took a long time and a lot of patience as well as another scientific breakthrough until the company was founded. Now we are very happy and also a little proud to have found the necessary support with the HTGF to successfully continue our work", Dr. Thomas Schulze, Co-Founder and CEO of FundaMental Pharma.

"After decades of research, the FundaMental Pharma team has developed a new drug class that could open a completely new therapeutic window for a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases. We look forward to supporting the team on its further path", Niels Sharman, Investment Analyst at High-Tech Gründerfonds.

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