Small Canadian biotech start-up Treventis is playing in the big leagues. The Toronto company just secured a partnership with Takeda, Japan’s largest drug maker, to help develop a new therapy for Alzheimer’s.
There’s still uncertainty around the causes of Alzheimer’s, but misfolding of a protein called tau is thought to play an important role. It is believed that misfolded tau proteins can build up in the neurons of the brain and kill them. As neurons die, the patient’s ability to think and remember becomes impaired.
Treventis has built a software platform that creates computer models of how these proteins misfold. Christopher Barden, Treventis’ CEO, says these simulations allow its scientists to work out where potential drugs could attach to the protein and stop them from accumulating. Barden says Treventis has “identified a class of compounds that are particularly well-suited to affecting tau.” Takeda and Treventis will figure out which of these compounds have the most potential and then take them into lab and clinical tests.
Scientists have made some progress in understanding Alzheimer’s in recent years, but effective treatments remain elusive. “There’s certainly an unmet medical need,” says Barden. “We like the challenge.”