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Vanderbilt licenses Parkinson’s drug candidates to Nashville start-up Appello

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: July 11th, 2018

Vanderbilt University has licensed a potential treatment for Parkinson’s disease to Nashville-based start-up Appello Pharmaceuticals.

The technology is a series of novel compounds known as positive allosteric modulators (PAMs) that were developed at the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery (VCNDD). The PAMs bind to and adjust a receptor known as mGluR4, which is highly expressed in areas of the brain directly relevant to Parkinson’s disease.

The dominant treatment for Parkinson’s today is dopamine replacement therapy, which relieves some motor symptoms of the disease but eventually causes debilitating side effects such as involuntary, uncontrollable movements. The new compounds from Vanderbilt bypass the dopamine system completely.

Under the terms of the licensing agreement, Appello will have the right to develop and commercialize products resulting from Vanderbilt’s research program, while the university obtains an equity interest in the start-up.

“Appello is the perfect vehicle to accelerate the translation of our mGluR4 PAMs to Parkinson’s disease patients,” says Craig W. Lindsley, director of medicinal chemistry at VCNDD. “The center has advanced multiple programs through licenses and philanthropy, but the opportunity to work with investors and build a company focused on a non-dopaminergic treatment for Parkinson’s disease was a golden opportunity to ensure our compounds get to patients.”

Padma Raghavan, vice provost for research at Vanderbilt, comments, “Strategic collaborations are key to accelerating the impact of the great basic biomedical research we do at Vanderbilt. This particular collaboration with Appello serves as an essential bridge toward improving patients’ lives.”

Source: Vanderbilt University

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