Challenge Aging Society

Hope for Tomorrow

Priavoid GmbH emerges as a pioneering force in the realm of drug development. Their unwavering vision, born out of the Jülich spin-off, aims to render Alzheimer's curable.

It is easy to dismiss occasional forgetfulness like misplacing glasses, losing cell phones, or misplacing keys as mere harmless clumsiness. However, Alzheimer's disease creeps in insidiously, often masquerading as ordinary memory lapses associated with old age during its early stages. But as time passes, its symptoms worsen, causing patients to experience progressive memory loss, disorientation in familiar settings, and difficulty with speech. It can even alter their personality.

Tragically, as the disease advances, patients eventually fail to recognize their closest relatives and forget even basic everyday activities like chewing and swallowing. Despite intensive research, there is still no drug capable of effectively halting or reversing this mental decline – at least not yet.

Scientists at FZ Jülich are determined to take a stand against Alzheimer's

Embracing this noble mission, the Priavoid GmbH spin-off seeks to redefine the narrative. Encouragingly, they appear to be on the verge of a breakthrough. Their focus centers around an innovative compound named PRI-002, designed to address the very core of the most widespread neurodegenerative disorder. The drug's strategy revolves around stabilizing beta-amyloid, a protein constantly produced in a healthy body, in its benign form.

Alzheimer's patients' brains witness the aggregation of individual beta-amyloid molecules, forming harmful oligomers that impair nerve cell function. PRI-002, however, uniquely dismantles these oligomers back into harmless monomers - a groundbreaking mechanism that instills hope for millions affected by the disease.

Spin-offs at FZ Jülich and their technologies

Understanding the mechanics of PRI-002: Safeguarding beta amyloid

Reflecting on PRI-002's approach, Dieter Willbold explains, "Current drug candidates attempt to reduce the formation of beta-amyloid in its monomeric form or depend on the immune system to combat the oligomers in the brain. Our drug, on the other hand, directly targets the pathogenic oligomers, bypassing reliance on the body's defense activation within the brain."

"Due to the aging of our society, we are witnessing an increasing prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases, with Alzheimer's being particularly prominent, posing a significant challenge."

Prof. Dieter Willbold
Co-founder Priavoid

The structural biologist and co-founder of Priavoid has dedicated 25 years to studying the culprits in the brain. Back in the 1990s, a biotechnological process caught his attention: mirror-image phage display. This technology allows the identification of molecular structures for any protein capable of binding to it and interacting with it. In simpler terms, it's like finding the right key from a vast collection that can unlock a specific lock, as explained by Willbold himself.

Science online: Prof. Willbold shares insights on Alzheimer's research

The Alzheimer's drug is well-tolerated by individuals

During the presentation of Alzheimer's research, Prof. Willbold and his team highlighted their use of this technology to search for active ingredients composed of synthetic building blocks with mirror images of their biological counterparts. The advantage of such a structural difference lies in the stability of these substances in the human body, making them well-suited for medicinal purposes as they are not easily broken down.

The pursuit of an Alzheimer's therapy led Willbold to the Heinrich Heine University and Forschungszentrum Jülich in 2001, where his work gained momentum. After confirming that the substance improved cognitive performance in mice, subsequent studies showed that the drug was well-tolerated in humans.

Laying the groundwork in the quest for an Alzheimer's cure: launching a spin-off

This promising progress prompted the founding of Priavoid in 2017, encouraged by Detlev Riesner, the predecessor at the Düsseldorf chair and co-founder of several biotech companies. Priavoid, deriving its name from "avoid" and "prion," is focused on advancing the development of a potential Alzheimer's drug.

Detlev Riesner also invested in the company. Now supported by the Federal Agency for Disruptive Innovations SPRIN-D, Priavoid aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of PRI-002 in Alzheimer's patients, with results expected by 2026.

SPRIN-D Project: Curative destruction: How Alzheimer’s disease can be defeated

Willbold remains optimistic, expressing hope that Alzheimer's can be defeated. He emphasizes the importance of investing in the development of therapies, given the increasing prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases in an aging society.

Investing in the advancement of therapies is crucial

In addition to targeting Alzheimer's, Priavoid's innovative therapy concept holds potential for addressing other diseases caused by oligomers of certain proteins, such as Parkinson's. The company is committed to advancing research and development in this vital area.

Image: Priavoid/ Michael Englert; Forschungszentrum Jülich/ Sascha Kreklau
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Last Modified: 16.08.2023