Prothena's university collaborators tout the success of a preclinical MS therapy

A research team at the University of Montreal has come up with some preclinical data to support a development program--now underway at the Irish biotech Prothena--which is targeting a new approach for halting the progression of multiple sclerosis.

The investigators say that MS is linked to two lymphocytes, immune cells tagged as CD4 and CD8, that manage to leak through the blood-brain barrier and attack the myelin sheath that guards neurons. A cell adhesion molecule called MCAM (melanoma cell adhesion molecule) is required to get through the barrier, and by blocking the interaction between the molecule and the lymphocytes the team was able to significantly reduce the level of disease activity in mouse models for MS.

"We observed a decrease of approximately 50% of the disease in mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), the most widely used animal model of MS. What is especially significant is that we can stop the disease from the first symptoms in addition to having an impact on its progression, which is a first," said Dr. Alexandre Prat, lead author of the study and a professor of neurosciences at the University of Montreal.

Prothena CEO Dale Schenk

The team is collaborating with Prothena, an Irish upstart helmed by former Elan CSO Dale Schenk, on an MS drug that does just that.

Prothena has a preclinical program for the MCAM antibody PRX003, which goes into a safety study with healthy volunteers later in the year and then is billed to be tested for psoriasis in 2016 in the first human study. Prothena says it may begin a study later for progressive MS.

- here's the release

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