Biopharmaceutical firm AC Immune wins funding for ‘game-changing’ Parkinson’s PET agent

Swiss-based biopharmaceutical company AC Immune announced Thursday that it is has won a prestigious imaging competition for its radiotracer used to diagnose Parkinson’s disease, and is now eligible to receive millions in funding.

It is one of three companies to win the Ken Griffin alpha-synuclein Imaging Competition from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, the firm announced July 30. The win comes shortly after AC Immune shared positive early results for its agent during this week’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.

The company, which focuses on neurodegenerative diseases, said it’s eligible to receive $3.2 million in funding, along with its partners. Much of the award will support clinical and nonclinical research investigating its PET imaging agent, with hopes of accurately detecting and monitoring Parkinson’s.

Oskar Hansson, who is collaborating on the project, and leading a team at Lund University and Skåne University Hospital in Sweden, said this will help further existing plans to kick-start a second study evaluating the tracer in new populations.

“It would be a huge step forward if we succeed in the development of an accurate and reliable PET method for detection of alpha-synuclein pathology,” Hansson said in a statement. “Such a diagnostic method would be vital for increasing our understanding of the diseases, and more importantly it would facilitate the development of new disease modifying therapies that might halt, or even stop, the progression of Parkinson’s disease.”

During the company’s Tuesday presentation at the virtual conference, it revealed one of its first-generation PET tracers showed “good” brain uptake and “very low” nonspecific retention in the first human study of idiopathic Parkinson’s patients and healthy volunteers.

“There is increasing recognition of the importance of targeting the right disease pathology at the right time in neurodegenerative diseases...,” CEO of the Swiss company Andrea Pfeifer, said in a statement. “The data presented at AAIC are a prime example of the power of our Morphomer platform to facilitate the rapid optimization of our PET tracers.”