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Cognitive impairment research: pushing the boundaries of neuroscience

picture of Emmanuel Lacroix, UCB Ventures
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Emmanuel Lacroix, UCB Ventures
People living with Alzheimer’s disease, other dementias and schizophrenia can suffer from cognitive impairment. This affects their memory, their ability to learn new things and concentration. It can limit their capacity to make decisions and live everyday life, often leading to loss of independence in severe cases.

Cognitive impairment is among the greatest areas of unmet medical need in society and it is rising. Our risk of dementia, for example, increases with age. As more people live longer, the number affected by cognitive impairment is likely to be higher.

The search for innovative therapies that can address cognitive impairment has led researchers to explore compounds that have a positive effect on brain activity. One potential treatment target is the synaptic vesicle protein SV2A, which plays an important role in the communication between neurons in the brain.

For UCB, this is an area where we have a strong record – this protein is also linked to epilepsy. Our research in this area previously led our scientists to develop two important anti-epileptic medicines used by patients around the world.

Our neuroscience research also led to the design of another class of small molecules that affect the SV2A protein. These novel SV2A modulators, although lacking anti-epileptic properties, have shown promising pro-cognitive effects in preclinical studies. This means that they may have the potential to improve cognition in people living with diseases linked to cognitive impairment – if the preclinical findings are confirmed in robust clinical data in the years to come.

Now, UCB has partnered with a group of Belgian and international investors to create a new company, Syndesi Therapeutics, to progress this promising area of research to the next stage. Syndesi Therapeutics has also gained additional funding from the Walloon Region, and has been working to further develop SDI-118, a novel SV2A modulator discovered by UCB.

We are pleased to see that SDI-118 has now entered a first-in-human Phase 1 study. This early clinical research investigation looks at the safety, tolerability and pharmacokinetics of single doses of the molecule in healthy subjects. Participants given the drug in the study will have blood tests and brain scans to help researchers understand its effect in the body.

If this proves successful, the research programme would move forward to studies looking at the effect of the molecule following repeated dosing and then on people living with cognitive impairment.

It is still early days, but we are encouraged to see Syndesi reporting progress in their work and excited to see what happens next. There is significant unmet need among patients with neurological disorders. UCB is pleased to support researchers aiming to bring forward new therapies that are of value to patients.

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