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Innovate UK Grant Supports Early Work on Cell Therapy for ALS

Innovate UK has given a grant to Reflection Therapeutics to help fund research into new ways of protecting the nervous system from motor neuron diseases, with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) as an initial focus.

The Innovate Smart Grant, which is reported to be worth £325,000 (nearly $426,000), will support an 18-month research program called “Degen-lock” that might lead to a new therapy. Reflection aims to treat ALS by lowering the neuroinflammation that damages motor nerve cells and other brain cells by manipulating regulatory T-cells for “targeted and potent suppression of the immune system” to protect motor neurons, it reports on its website.

Existing anti-inflammatory therapies can be unsuitable for elderly patients, Reflection states in a press release, adding that its technology might enable therapies that work faster and be a more effective anti-inflammatory.

The grant is meant to help Reflection transition from conducting lab research to developing a pharmaceutical product, ready for testing in clinical trials.

Reflection’s research and development team, based at the Babraham Research Campus in Cambridge, U.K., will collaborate with leading organizations in that country and with the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, an independent research centre helping institutes and companies translate early cell and gene research into potentially viable therapies. “We are extremely pleased to begin this work with the support of Innovate UK to further develop our innovative new ALS therapy. This project … will allow us to develop and test our prototype therapy, allowing us to reach critical pre-clinical milestones on the way towards clinical development,” Timothy Newton, Reflection’s CEO, said in the release.

The project costs £464,042 in total and is co-funded by Innovate UK and the company’s investors.

Reflection originally emerged from Deep Science Ventures, an early-stage venture creation program, which invests in high-risk scientific projects with the goal of addressing scientific challenges.

Reflection states that it has made considerable progress recently through its participation in Babraham’s Accelerate@Babraham bio incubator program, which supports early-stage life science ventures. “Having closely followed Reflection Therapeutics’ rapid progress from the beginning of the Accelerate@Babraham programme in September 2019, we are delighted that it has secured this prestigious award,” said Karolina Zapadka, head of the Babraham Research Campus Accelerator.

The National Health Service estimates that about 5,000 people are living with a motor neuron disease in the UK.

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