Syndesi Therapeutics has been formed by UCB and a group of investors, including Novo Seeds and V-Bio to develop a group of compounds for cognitive disorders caused by diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Syndesi Therapeutics will use of Belgian biotech UCB’s expertise in drug discovery for neurological conditions to develop new therapies in cognitive disorders using a new class of drugs that have demonstrated pro-cognitive properties in preclinical studies. The investment was led by Novo Seeds and backed by the likes of Fountain Healthcare, V-Bio, and Johnson & Johnson Innovation, which helped to raise a Series A fundraising of €17M that will fund the work to demonstrate early proof-of-concept in humans.

Cognitive disorders can vary between mild and severe depending on how badly abilities like learning, memory, perception, and problem-solving are affected. Some common symptoms of cognitive impairment are confusion, poor motor coordination, memory loss, and identity confusion, which can have a major impact on daily life. With diseases associated with cognitive impairment on the rise, including Alzheimer’s which affects 5.5 million people in the US alone, there is a real need to find ways to slow or reverse their effects.

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Syndesi will work on a new group of compounds that modulate the synaptic vesicle protein SV2A. The compounds were originally developed by UCB’s researchers but they fell outside of the company’s area of focus. This drove the formation of Syndesi, which will develop the candidates to make sure that they reach their full potential. Unlike other SV2A modulators, this new class lack anti-epileptic properties and, instead, have demonstrated good pro-cognition effects in preclinical models.

Jonathan Savidge, CEO of Syndesi, commented: “Development of these small molecules that modulate the SV2A target in a distinct manner represents an intriguing new approach for the treatment of cognitive deficits since they specifically target synaptic dysfunction, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s Disease and other indications characterized by cognitive impairment.”

The field of neurology is a particularly difficult area to develop drugs, as highlighted by the recent failures of potential Alzheimer’s drugs, notably by Eli Lilly, Merck, and Axovant. However, this has not been enough to slow down the huge amount of research going into treatments and cures for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Led by Andrea Pfeifer, Swiss biotech AC Immune is developing two platforms to treat the disease, while UniQure hopes its expertise in gene therapy will help it to topple Huntington’s disease.

With companies finding it difficult to fight the underlying causes of neurodegenerative diseases, perhaps UCB and Syndesi are taking a better approach by targeting specific symptoms. The development of molecules to slow or reverse cognitive decline could be particularly effective if combined with an early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, which is something Spanish biotech Biocross is trying to achieve.


Media – Billion Photos / shutterstock.com; Alzheimer’s Association

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