MONTREAL, June 21, 2021 – On this Global Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Awareness Day, CQDM is proud to announce a new $1.7M international collaboration between McGill University, Raya Therapeutic (Montreal – Quebec) and Eikonizo Therapeutics (Cambridge – Massachusetts). This CQDM SynergiQc program grant to the laboratory of Professor Thomas Durcan at The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute – Hospital), McGill University is made possible by a contribution from the Ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation du Québec (MEI) and from McGill University’s Healthy Brains, Healthy Lives initiative.
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder characterized by a progressive loss of motor neurons and denervation of muscle fibers, resulting in muscle weakness and paralysis. ALS is a deadly disease, which on average takes patients’ lives 2 to 5 years after the first diagnosis. Current treatment options are limited and show extremely modest efficacy.
In this project, Prof. Durcan and his team, which will receive a financial contribution of nearly $725,000 from the MEI, will conduct pre-clinical studies to assess the efficacy of 6 different drug candidates for the treatment of ALS, alone or in combination, each of them targeting a different pathway potentially contributing to motor neuron death in ALS. This collaboration builds on the drug discovery platform developed by Prof. Durcan’s team during previous projects funded by the MEI and CQDM to evaluate the potential of the partner companies’ candidate molecules in ALS patient iPSC cells. It is expected that the project will result in additional contributions from Quebec-based organizations, for example for subsequent toxicity assays and drug production. Importantly, positive results will support Raya Therapeutic and Eikonizo Therapeutics to initiate clinical trials that could lead to new treatment options for ALS patients.
“Our government is especially keen to support such international collaboration initiatives, which are accelerating drug discoveries and making Québec a hub for the development of innovative treatments. By supporting this project carried out by Professor Durcan’s team, we are proudly contributing to the advancement of research to enhance the quality of life of many patients with neurodegenerative diseases,” Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé noted.
“New therapeutic options for patients are often the result of years of public-private collaborations. This project is a testament to the fruits of collaborative research supported by the MEI as it heavily relies on tools and methods developed a few years ago through CQDM funding, and takes them to another level, to identify and develop innovative solutions for ALS patients” said Véronique Dugas, Senior Director, Scientific Affairs and Partnerships at CQDM.
“Made possible by CQDM, this collaboration is an excellent example of biotech companies such as Raya and Eikonizo working with a world-class academic institution, The Neuro, to accelerate the finding of potential treatments for people with ALS. We are particularly excited about the use of Prof. Durcan’s novel platform to identify neuroprotective combinations of compounds,” said Kim Staats, Ph.D., Scientific Advisor to Raya Therapeutic.
“We are thrilled to be a part of this project, as it is an excellent opportunity for Eikonizo to work with Prof. Durcan’s team and the unique, rigorous platform they have built at McGill to advance ALS research,” said Janice Kranz, Ph.D., Co-Founder, CEO and President of Eikonizo.
For McGill University’s Healthy Brains, Healthy Lives initiative: “Through its Neuro-Partnerships Program, HBHL is proud to help fund this new project in collaboration with CQDM and other industry partners. As this project aims to develop an effective and safe therapy for ALS, it aligns with HBHL’s vision to reduce the burden of neurological illnesses and improve the quality of life of Canadians and people around the world”.
CQDM is a biopharmaceutical research consortium whose mission is to fund the development of innovative tools and technologies that will accelerate the discovery and development of safer and more effective drugs. We bring together world-class pharmaceutical corporations, several Canadian biotech companies, the best scientists from both the public and private sectors, as well as the Canadian and Quebec governments. CQDM’s collaborative approach bridges the funding gap needed to drive innovation across the academic and private sectors, especially where early-stage research is concerned.
About Healthy Brains, Healthy Lives
Healthy Brains, Healthy Lives (HBHL) aims to accelerate translational discoveries and create a global centre of excellence in neuroinformatics at McGill University. Supported by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, Quebec’s Ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation and the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQS, FRQSC and FRQNT), HBHL builds on McGill’s scientific excellence and global leadership in areas of neuroscience that hold great promise for delivering implementable, clinically effective outcomes in brain and mental health.
About Raya Therapeutic, Inc.
Raya is a privately-held, mission-oriented biopharmaceutical company focused on developing oral, blood-brain-barrier penetrable small molecules to treat Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Due to the urgency surrounding ALS, Raya is planning to advance several compounds into a single Phase 3 platform design clinical trial as soon as practical. To develop a single drug that will show substantial improvement will be very challenging as ALS is a very heterogeneous disease. Treating ALS effectively will likely require a combination of different therapies with different targets or mechanisms of action. Raya is believed to be the only company with a comprehensive strategy to develop multiple drugs on their own and in combination taking advantage of potential synergies in the treatment of the disease. Raya is working with several well-known ALS clinicians and researchers to optimize the development pathway for the company’s compounds. For more information, please visit www.rayatherapeutic.com.
About Eikonizo Therapeutics, Inc.
Eikonizo is a privately-held biotechnology company developing life-changing therapies by creating brain-penetrant small molecules and deploying in vivo target engagement techniques to de-risk and accelerate the identification of therapeutics. Our first program is focused on a disease-modifying therapeutic, to slow or stop neurodegeneration. Eikonizo’s academic founder is Jacob Hooker, Ph.D., a chemical neuroscientist and Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport MGH Research Scholar at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School and Director of Radiochemistry at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging. Eikonizo is funded by Kevin Kinsella (founder of Avalon Ventures), F-Prime Biomedical Research Initiative (FBRI), Arclight Therapeutics LLC, and Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF), among other investors. For information, please visit https://www.eikonizo.com.
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