Michael J. Fox. Photo: Paul Hudson/Creative Commons
An Austrian company has developed a potentially viable vaccine for early-stage Parkinson's disease. The treatment, which is designed to slow or even stop progression of the disease, has undergone a Phase I clinical trial, from which data was released on Thursday in New York.
The treatment is based on a candidate vaccine known as PD01A, which lowers levels of alpha-synuclein. This is a brain protein which is believed to play an important role in maintaining a supply of synaptic vesicles in presynaptic terminals, as well as helping to regulate the release of dopamine, a type of neurotransmitter that is critical for controlling the start and stop of voluntary and involuntary movements.
The trial was conducted at the Confraternität Privatklinik Josefstadt in Vienna and involved up to 32 patients.
The preliminary results of the trial showed that the vaccine was well tolerated and safe, that it induced an immune response, and that the immune response appeared to be improving function.
"If you add all this together, I think we have the first evidence that would tell us that these findings are compatible with what we look for with disease modification," Achim Schneeberger, MD, chief medical officer of AFFiRiS, the Austrian pharmaceutical company developing the drug, told a press conference where the initial results were released.
Dr. Walter Schmidt, CEO of AFFiRiS, commented on the progress of the Parkinson’s project at the Stage I trial's inception in 2012, saying "Worldwide, for the first time immunotherapy is applied for the treatment of Parkinson’s. It is a so-called 'First-in-Man' and 'First-in-Kind' trial, because PD01A is the first medication worldwide aiming for clinical efficacy by modulating the metabolic pathway of alpha-syn."
"Even in its preliminary stages this new treatment concept was highly appreciated, as the renowned Michael J. Fox Foundation assented financial support to a total of $1.5 million. Hence, this is one of the few projects outside of the USA considered worthy of support by the foundation”, he said.
AG employs 100 highly-qualified staff at the Campus Vienna Biocenter in Vienna, Austria where the vaccine was developed. In addition to its work on the Parkinson's vaccine, the company has been developing peptide vaccines for Alzheimer's disease and Atherosclerosis.
In part, the research was funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation to the tune of $1.5 million (€1.12 million). The foundation is dedicated to accelerating a cure for Parkinson's disease and improved therapies for those living with the condition today. Its founder, Michael J. Fox, is a well-known Canadian-American actor who is a high-profile victim of the disease.