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DTU and Lundbeck joins forces to combat Parkinson’s disease

Bioteknologi og biokemi Sundhed og sygdomme

The hunt for a groundbreaking biomarker test for Parkinson’s disease continues with support from the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Lundbeck is combining its biomarker discoveries with leading microfluidic experts at the Danish Technical University (DTU) to develop a state-of-the-art “digital” biomarker assay that aims to not only facilitate early diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's disease and Multiple system atrophy, but also to monitor progression of the disease, and effects of disease modifying therapies.

Three years ago, Lundbeck embarked on a journey to develop a validated biomarker test for Parkinson's Disease focused on the detection of minute amounts of pathological protein aggregates formed by the protein alpha-synuclein. Development of the test at Lundbeck, in collaboration consortium with expert academic groups, enabled to determine with 90% accuracy whether or not a person had misfolded alpha-synuclein aggregates in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) indicative of Parkinson's disease. This objective biomarker enables a fast, early and more precise diagnosis facilitating early intervention allowing for better and more meaningful treatment outcomes. However, central challenges in scaling and robustness of the assay to achieve high precision remained.

Lundbeck is now ready to take their biomarker assay to the next level. Together with DTU professor Alexander K. Büll and his expert knowledge on protein aggregation and microfluidics], the scientists aim to push the boundaries of neuroscience once again and go from a test providing binary answers to an assay that may also determine the progression of e.g. Parkinson's disease.

Through an improved assay setup enabled by the use of microdroplets, the researchers hope to unlock the power to quantify, through amplification, minute amounts of pathological aggregates in tissue and biofluids, such as CSF.

“A robust, accurate, and quantitative assay would be of high value, both in early diagnosis of the disease and as a disease progression marker which allows development of disease modifying treatments for Parkinson’s disease. We will capitalize on our deep understanding of the biophysics of alpha-synuclein aggregation to improve on the existing technologies.”, says professor Alexander K. Büll. He is hopeful that the project will lead to earlier disease discovery, better disease control, and consequently a better life quality for the patients.

"Innovation is at the core of Lundbeck, and I'm proud that the Michael J. Fox Foundation has selected us again to be part of the frontrunners team within Parkinson's Disease. Cutting-edge science is what creates a premier neuroscience department, and we need that to be able to restore brain health for the millions of people living with brain diseases,” says Tarek Samad, PHD, SVP, Head of Research at Lundbeck.

The partnership with the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) is pre-competitive, which means all knowledge is shared. MJFF will fund a post-doctoral researcher for two years under joint supervision from DTU and Lundbeck.