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New approaches in neuroscience

Biotie Therapies Corp.
Biotie Therapies is focusing on developing new therapies for neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders and inflammatory diseases – to address conditions with high unmet medical need and significant market potential.

Disorders of the central nervous system remain the biggest medical challenge of our age. The burden of neurological disorders alone – such as Parkinson ’s disease – is reaching a significant level in countries where a growing proportion of the population is aged over 65.

As we continue to move into the new millennium, innovative science-based companies like Biotie Therapies are approaching old conditions in news ways, based on a better and more fundamental understanding of how the brain works.

Blocking desire

Biotie’s most advanced compound is nalmefene, potentially the first oral drug to reduce heavy drinking. Nalmefene is designed to block the mechanism in the brain that produces the desire to drink more alcohol.

Together with its pharmaceutical partner Lundbeck, Biotie has announced positive results in respect of its two Phase III clinical trials on alcohol dependence and expects to launch the new drug in Europe in 2012, based on evidence from more than 3,000 patients.

Current treatments for alcohol addiction require abstinence from drinking as a startingpoint, a major hurdle for someone trying to get their drinking under control. Particularly when you remember that it is estimated that 23 million Europeans – 5% of men and 1% of women – are dependent on alcohol, according to the European Commission.

Nalmefene bypasses this hurdle, as it is not aimed at keeping patients from drinking, but instead at limiting their intake of alcohol.

Modern imaging techniques show how SYN115 enters the brain and effects regions associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Stabilising neurotransmission

Biotie is also working on a new treatment for Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurological disorder after Alzheimer’s. Parkinson’s is caused by a decrease in the brain of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which plays an important role in muscle control.

As part of its acquisition of Synosia Therapeutics earlier this year, Biotie has taken over development of SYN115 and SYN118, which have both produced positive clinical trial results. UCB Pharma has signed a strategic alliance focused on these two promising compounds.

The hope is that SYN115 will even out some of the distressing peaks and troughs in dopamine levels experienced by those with Parkinson’s. Biotie has started a Phase IIb study in 400 patients using SYN115, and further results on SYN118 are expected later this year.

A crucial year ahead

The year ahead is set to be a pivotal one for Biotie, with results due on late-stage clinical trials.

New approaches built on a deep knowledge of the molecular mechanisms involved have resulted in a science-driven company ready for the twenty-first century.

> Timo Veromaa
(Published in HighTech Finland 2011)