Researchers collaborate to design treatment for Parkinson’s disease

‍IRICoR, a pan-Canadian drug discovery and research commercialisation centre, Université de Montréal (UdeM), the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) of the Université de Montréal, and Valence Discovery, AI-enabled drug designer, have announced a collaboration focussing on the discovery of novel drug candidates for the treatment of levodopa-induced dyskinesia in Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease with the prevalence of one in 100 people over the age of 60, or around five million people worldwide. Of these patients, almost all receive levodopa (also known as L-Dopa), a dopamine precursor that enables patients to reinitiate normal movement.

Although this treatment offers relief of the major motor symptoms, in a majority of patients, prolonged levodopa use leads to abnormal involuntary movements called levodopa-induced dyskinesia. Levodopa-induced dyskinesia occurs with an average latency of around six years and affects 95% of all patients within 15 years of chronic L-Dopa treatment. Current treatments for this condition are not universally effective, have only transient efficacy, and are associated with side effects including fainting, dizziness, and hallucinations.

The collaboration builds on research from the team of Dr. Daniel Levesque, Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies of the Faculty of Pharmacy at UdeM, and focuses on the design of highly selective modulators of the Nur77/RXR nuclear receptor complex, a promising new pharmacological target for movement disorders. Through co-funding from IRICoR and the Partenariat-UdeM program and with oversight of the project from IRICoR, scientists in the Drug Discovery Unit at IRIC will rapidly advance selected hits through lead optimisation. The research team will leverage Valence’s machine learning platform for few-shot learning, generative chemistry, and multiparameter optimisation to address critical challenges in lead optimisation through the design of novel, highly selective drug candidates against the Nur77/RXR target, presenting a new pharmacological approach to managing the limitations of current treatments.

“We are extremely pleased to have Valence’s support on this important drug discovery program, and are confident that our joint efforts will significantly accelerate our path to identifying novel compounds that can treat levodopa-induced dyskinesia, a serious side effect of the most common treatment for Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr. Levesque.

Daniel Cohen, CEO of Valence Discovery, said: “This collaboration is an important example of how we’re bringing modern machine learning methods, custom-built for drug discovery, to innovative R&D organizations of all shapes and sizes.”

Dr. Steven Klein, Vice President of Business Development at IRICoR, said: “We are extremely excited about what we’ve seen from the team at Valence and look forward to exploring future partnerships across IRICoR’s broader portfolio of discovery programs.”

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