PALO ALTO, Calif. and TOKYO—Inscopix, Inc. has entered into a research collaboration with Astellas Research Institute of America LLC, a subsidiary of Astellas Pharma Inc., to develop novel preclinical drug screening assays for psychiatric disorders.
The collaboration will leverage Inscopix’s miniature microscope-based brain mapping platform, nVoke, to identify neural activity patterns underlying disease-associated behaviors and to observe deficits in these patterns in animal models of disease. nVoke is a miniature microscope-based solution for simultaneous imaging and manipulation of large-scale neural circuit dynamics in freely behaving subjects.
The companies hope that this research could support the identification of new drug targets and treatment approaches and help evaluate the efficacy of candidate therapies during preclinical therapeutic development.
“Inscopix’s brain-mapping platform has enabled a deeper understanding of disease biology and this collaboration allows us to tackle complex psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders,” said Kunal Ghosh, Ph.D., chief executive officer of Inscopix.
As part of the two-year collaboration, the companies will use the nVoke miniature microscope platform to investigate neural activity patterns during the performance of behavioral tasks that reflect clinical features of disease. Researchers will focus their efforts on brain regions, circuits, and cell types that have been implicated in human pathophysiology. In the second phase, researchers will characterize aberrant brain activity in rodent disease models to establish a robust platform for future efficacy studies. Financial terms have not been disclosed at this time.
“Developing precise and efficacious therapeutics for psychiatric disorders would have a significant impact for patients and their families,” stated Jonathan Nassi, Ph.D., senior lead scientist of Inscopix. “Through this collaboration, we look forward to enabling a more mechanistic understanding of brain functioning during behavior to inform preclinical development and better predict clinical outcomes.”
Astellas has been busy in the U.S., recently. The company announced at the beginning of October that they have plans to invest nearly $13 million into two innovation incubators operated by LabCentral, a U.S.-based laboratory facility for next-generation biotech startups.
“Astellas has a long-standing commitment to the Boston-area life sciences ecosystem, where world-class talent are dedicated to turning innovative science into value for patients,” said Kenji Yasukawa, Ph.D., president and CEO of Astellas, in a press release. “Our presence in the greater Boston area comprises over 200 professionals across several locations driving innovation in regenerative medicine, immuno-oncology, mitochondrial function, genetic regulation and beyond. Accelerating early-stage scientific innovation in areas such as cell and gene therapy is a strategic focus for Astellas, and is superbly aligned with the mission of LabCentral to serve as a launching-pad for cutting-edge biotech and life sciences start-ups.”
Astellas will invest $12.5 million to become the only pharmaceutical/biotechnology company among five Founding Sponsors of a new incubator, which will feature a core lab space where companies can easily conduct process development studies and a non-GMP pilot plant, being developed by LabCentral at 238 Main Street in Cambridge, Mass. The investment, announced at a ceremony with the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and various elected officials, provides support to start-up companies and entrepreneurial founders seeking to create scientific innovation in areas of unmet need such as cell and gene therapy.
The new incubator is expected to be operational in 2021. Astellas also plans to invest at least $450,000 over three years to become a Gold Sponsor of LabCentral’s existing incubator located at 700 Main Street in Cambridge.