In a companion development, CoCo Therapeutics named Dr.Steve Butcher as chief operating officer (COO). Butcher was a founder andscientific director of the Fujisawa Institute of Neuroscience before holdingmanagement positions of increasing responsibility at Pharmacia AB. Morerecently he held executive positions in a number of biotechnology companies,including chief scientific officer at BioImage A/S and COO at TopoTarget A/S.Raj Parekh, general partner at Advent Venture Partners and the chairman of CoCo,said, "we are pleased that an individual of Steve's caliber is now leading theprograms at CoCo Therapeutics. The board looks forward to working closely withSteve to evaluate RAR-alpha agonists in Alzheimer's disease."
The new company hopes to build on the success of researchfunded through the Wellcome Trust's Seeding Drug Discovery initiative toinvestigate the role of the retinoic acid receptor, RAR-alpha, and moleculesthat act on it in Alzheimer's disease. The Neuroscience Drug Discovery Unit atKing's, led by Corcoran, has been optimizing compounds for treatment of centralnervous system (CNS) disorders since 2008. The group has previously shown thatmolecules that act on RAR-alpha can affect multiple parts of the Alzheimer'sdisease pathway and therefore have the potential to produce an effectivetherapy that would otherwise need several points of intervention from differentdrugs.
CoCo Therapeutics will now take the lead compound forwardinto late-stage preclinical studies and clinical trials.
"Our studies have concentrated on identifying the specificretinoic acid receptor (RAR) signaling pathways in neurite outgrowth, neuronalsurvival and stem/progenitor cell differentiation," Corcoran says. "Theidentification of these pathways allows the design of retinoids; these aresmall molecules which can cross the blood-brain barrier. These retinoids areeither agonists or antagonists and may have therapeutic potential in CNSdisorders such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke and spinal cord injury."
Funding to launch and progress CoCo Therapeutics has beenprovided by Advent Venture Partners, a European venture capital investor inmarket-leading technology and life-science businesses. Corcoran says, "I amdelighted to be working with Advent on this project. Our research has shownearly promise in this area and this partnership will enable us to progress thework further. This is an exciting step forward in the search for effectiveAlzheimer's disease treatments."
King's College London has been ranked as one of the top 30universities in the world, according to the 2012/13 QS World UniversityRankings, reportedly the most widely read university comparison of its kind,and was The Sunday Times University of the Year 2010/11. A research-leduniversity based in the heart of London, King's has more than 25,000students—more than 10,000 of them graduate students—from nearly 140 countries,and more than 6,500 employees. King's is in the second phase of a £1 billionredevelopment program.
The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundationdedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health.The trust's breadth of support includes public engagement, education and theapplication of research to improve health. It is independent of both politicaland commercial interests.
Advent Life Sciences is the dedicated life-sciences team atAdvent Venture Partners. It invests predominantly in early-stage andgrowth-equity life-science companies in the United Kingdom, Europe and theUnited States. It has sold investments to Pfizer, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals,Johnson & Johnson, Celgene, Amgen and others.