JDRF and Neurodon Partner to Advance Small Molecules Targeting a Key Pathway in Type 1 Diabetes Progression

Research focused on understanding the role of beta cell dysfunction and death in T1D progression.

Neurodon will work with Dr. Carmella Evans-Molina of the IU School of Medicine and Dr. Decio L. Eizirik of the ULB, both prominent physician scientists with research programs focused on understanding the role of beta cell dysfunction and death in T1D progression. The project will assess the potential of Neurodon’s small molecules as new therapeutics that improve beta cell health in T1D and selected forms of monogenic diabetes. The $920,000 grant will be funded from JDRF to Neurodon under the Industry Discovery & Development Partnerships (IDDP) program that focuses on commercialization of therapeutics and devices for the treatment, cure, and prevention of T1D.

The funded research involves testing Neurodon’s novel SERCA activators in customized T1D models developed by the Evans-Molina and Eizirik labs at the IU School of Medicine and the ULB, respectively. The work focuses on assessing the compounds’ ability to beneficially modulate intrinsic beta cell stress pathways involved in T1D progression. Neurodon’s compounds, by correcting aberrant cellular calcium, have been shown to alleviate a process called endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress that is activated early during the evolution of T1D and contributes to beta cell loss. Importantly, markers of ER stress are present in human islets of organ donors with T1D, and Drs. Evans-Molina and Eizirik have obtained data suggesting a marked loss of beta cell SERCA activity with subsequent loss of ER calcium in models of diabetes, resulting in ER stress and reduced beta cell function and survival. These findings suggest that interventions focused on the preservation and restoration of ER calcium may improve beta cell health and survival in T1D.

“JDRF is the preeminent advocate and supporter for T1D research innovation in the world, and we are excited that they appreciate the importance and potential of cellular calcium regulation in T1D,” said Dr. Russell Dahl, CEO of Neurodon. “In addition to the JDRF’s crucial support for this endeavor, Carmella and Decio are pioneers in elucidating how impaired calcium handling in the beta cell contribute to diabetes pathogenesis, thus we have an immense amount of intellectual firepower in this collaboration to make significant strides towards a game-changing therapeutic for patients.”

“There is growing appreciation for the role that beta cell stress pathways play in the development of T1D. We are delighted to work with Neurodon and Dr. Eizirik to test the hypothesis that restoration of SERCA activity and ER calcium may interrupt T1D progression and immune-mediated beta cell destruction. At the present time, very few drug targets in T1D are focused on the beta cell. This project is really uniquely positioned to address a fundamental gap in our understanding of T1D pathogenesis, while expanding our search for potential disease-modifying therapies,” said Dr. Carmella Evans-Molina of the IU School of Medicine.

“Accumulating evidence suggest that T1D develops in the context of a misguided dialogue between the immune system and the beta cells. Most attempts to revert disease have up to now focused on the immune system only, which is akin of attempting to fly an airplane with a single wing. We clearly need the two wings here, i.e. re-educating the immune system and protecting the beta cells. The new compounds developed by Neurodon provide a potentially very interesting approach to protect beta cells. We are thus very happy with the support received by the JDRF to develop this collaborative project with Dr Evans-Molina and our Neurodon colleagues and look forward to starting the work!” said Dr. Decio L. Eizirik of the UBL.

“JDRF support is bringing together complementary expertise between Neurodon and T1D academic collaborators. The small molecule activators being developed by Neurodon could result in a therapeutic strategy to slow or halt disease progression by protecting beta cells from the stress they encounter because of T1D,” said Dr. Frank Martin, Senior Director of Research at JDRF.

Article Credit
JDRF and Neurodon, in Collaboration with the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Partner to Advance Small Molecules Targeting a Key Pathway in Type 1 Diabetes Progression, 06/03/2022, JDRF