Finnish drug development firm Herantis Pharma has launched a new programme for the development of a non-invasive cerebral dopamine neurotrophic factor (CDNF) to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease.

CDNF is a potent neuroprotective factor which promotes neuronal survival.

The company said that the new therapy could also potentially be used to treat additional neurodegenerative disorders.

Herantis has entered into a licensing agreement with the University of Helsinki to gain exclusive worldwide rights for the therapeutic application of a non-invasive CDNF method. The university’s approach is based on modification of the natural CDNF.

Preclinical proof-of-concept studies showed that CDNF has beneficial effects in Parkinson’s through reduction of motor and non-motor symptoms, as well as prevention of disease progression.

Herantis CEO Pekka Simula said: “Non-invasive CDNF is an important expansion to our existing patent estate and strengthens the profile and value of our CDNF programme.

“Non-invasive CDNF is an important expansion to our existing patent estate and strengthens the profile and value of our programme.”

“Our focus as a company is to develop our unique clinical assets for patients in need. Identifying innovative opportunities to improve the technology and expand the application potential is part of our core strategy.”

The company intends to further investigate the new possibilities with non-invasive administration for enhancing patient outcomes.

University of Helsinki Institute of Biotechnology professor Mart Saarma said: “We have previously shown that CDNF protects and recovers neurons from degeneration, neuroinflammation and endoplasmic reticulum stress, critical contributors to many neurodegenerative diseases.

“Our recent discoveries provide an opportunity to target numerous indications beyond Parkinson’s with simpler administration and broader distribution while maintaining the full potential of CDNF and I look forward to supporting the company in its development efforts.”

Currently, Herantis is assessing natural CDNF in a Phase I-II clinical trial at three university hospitals in Europe. This study will see direct administration of CDNF into the brain through a delivery system.