Phytopharm will receive a substantial pile of cash from The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research to help support its development of Cogane as a treatment for PD.

The MJFF has set aside funding of $1.16 million over a two-year period to support preclinical studies designed to determine the optimal dosing requirements for Cogane in PD.

The Foundation’s excitement in the project was sparked by promising preclinical models of Cogane, which showed its ability to stimulate the production of proteins known as neurotrophic factors, which can reverse changes in the brain associated with the illness.

GDNF is a neurotrophic factor known to be particularly effective in promoting the regrowth of damaged nerves, but it can only be directly injected into the affected site of the brain via complicated surgical procedures because the body’s digestion processes would degrade the protein before it crosses the blood-brain barrier. Cogane, however, may offer an effective way of addressing this problem, because it can be taken in pill form to stimulate the production of GDNF.

“Preclinical studies with Cogane have been highly encouraging in reversing the changes in the area of the brain involved in PD, providing hope that Cogane could restore normal control of movement,” said Dr Daryl Rees, the UK group’s chief executive.

“MJFF is extremely eager to see the development of an orally bioavailable product that can stimulate production of GDNF or other neurotrophic factors in the brain,” said MJFF chief executive Katie Hood, explaining the group’s interest in the drug. “The development of novel alternative delivery mechanisms for neurotrophic factors is critical in realising the potential of these proteins to restore motor function and increase quality of life for Parkinson’s disease patients,” she added.

The company is also currently testing Cogane in Phase II clinical studies of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.