UK charity Parkinson’s UK is handing over more than $1 million in funding to US biotech company Neurolixis, to help fuel development of a novel, experimental therapy for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

The funding – through the charity’s Virtual Biotech initiative - will support final preclinical studies for NLX-112, a novel serotonin 5-HT1A receptor agonist for the treatment of L-DOPA-induced dyskinesia.

Long-term use of L-DOPA can cause disabling dyskinesias – or involuntary movements – reducing the beneficial effect of the drug. Around 40 to 50 percent of Parkinson’s patients experience dyskinesia after five years’ treatment with the drug.

The grant will enable Neurolixis “to move the NLX-112 program through the necessary regulatory steps in preparation for clinical trials in Parkinson’s patients,” said its co-founder, president and chief executive, Dr Mark Varney.

This project is the second to win backing through the Virtual Biotech initiative, which was rolled out in 2017 with the aim exploring lost opportunities in drug discovery and early clinical development.

The Virtual Biotech provides a route for the charity to offer leadership and critical funding in partnership with a range of other organisations that have the facilities and staff to carry out scientific work on a contract basis. Up to £22 million is to be invested into promising projects by the end of 2021 under the scheme.

“Being able to use our Virtual Biotech venture to accelerate the development of promising a new treatment that could potentially prevent L-DOPA-induced dyskinesia is very exciting for us and for people with Parkinson’s across the world,” said Parkinson’s UK’s director of R&D, Dr Arthur Roach.

“With dyskinesia, everyday tasks, such as eating, writing and walking, can become extremely difficult. In fact, two thirds of people with Parkinson’s have told us it is one of the most critical issues that impacts quality of life. With this new project, we hope to be able to deliver a potential treatment that will help address this global problem.”