Newly Minted Biotech Firm to Tackle Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's and ALS


Yumanity, a new Biotech firm setup by former Onyx Pharmaceuticals Chief Executive Tony Coles, will work to find a cure for Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis ALS, which is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

In 2013, Coles sold Onyx Pharmaceuticals for $10.4 billion to Amgen. The newly-formed company, Yumanity is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and will include experts specializing on these three diseases. Yumanity was initially funded by Coles but he reveals that some pharmaceuticals companies are also showing interest in the company.

Yumanity has announced that it will use the technologies developed by Susan Lindquist, who is a 2009 winner of the National Medal of Science and also a member of the Whitehead Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).   

In an interview with Forbes, Coles suggested that about 50 million people across the world suffer from Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and ALS. These diseases also cost governments about $650 billion each year. Moreover, it affects the quality of life for not only the patients but also their family members.

"I love a big problem and a good challenge and I think that this challenge is sized about right," says Coles.

Coles career involved over 20 years of working experience on discovering and developing new drug. Coles and Lindquist came into contact a few years ago when Lindquist launched a company called FoldRx, which developed drugs that battle neurodegenerative disease hereditary peripheral amyloidosis.

Lindquist's work involved examining the proteins wrongly shaped in the brain, which can lead to neurodegenerative diseases. Lindquist is a pioneer in creating treatments for many neurodegenerative diseases.  Experts suggest that these misshaped proteins die when they are put in yeast cells.

Yumanity's first step is to find drug compounds, which prevents the yeast cells to die. These yeast cells will then be put in neurons derived from stem cells of people suffering from neurodegenerative diseases.

If the scientists find that the drug is effective then they will study it further. Experts believe that their approach will help in the discovery of new drugs that will be used to cure diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and ALS.

Lindquist's researchers are already said to be screening thousands of compounds against Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and ALS. An extended effort from a company such as Yumanity will help speed up the efforts. Lindquist and Coles hope that big pharmaceutical companies may help in their effort by sharing their proprietary compound libraries.

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