$1 million funding boost for Multiple Sclerosis research
Press release issued: 9 January 2009
Funding worth around US$1 million has been secured for Apitope, a Bristol University spinout company that is looking at a potential life-altering therapy for people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system.
The company, founded by Professor David Wraith in the University’s Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology, has secured the first ever investment from Fast Forward, a non-profit organisation established by the US National MS Society. The investment aims to bridge the gap between research carried out at the University and Apitope by accelerating the testing of new treatments and funding the costly 'proof of principle' stage, which any new drug must undergo before full-scale clinical trials can begin.
Professor Wraith said: “It was a fellowship from the US National MS Society that was the catalyst to devoting my life to MS research. It is with great pride that I, together with Apitope, come back to a partnership with the Society for a potentially life altering therapy for people with MS.”
MS is a debilitating disorder in which the immune system incorrectly attacks healthy tissue. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision.
Apitope is developing novel therapeutic products to revolutionise the diagnosis and treatment of chronic autoimmune and allergic disorders, representing major advances in therapy. The company has developed patented technology based on scientific evidence showing that soluble, synthetic peptides can reinstate tolerance and selectively weaken autoimmune responses. The ApitopesTM (Antigen Processing Independent epiTOPES) inhibit the immune system's harmful attack on the body while preserving normal immune responses to harmful antigens, such as infections.
Dr Keith Martin, CEO of Apitope, said: "The National MS Society's support provides a strong independent validation of our approach to the treatment of MS. We are very grateful for this funding from a world leader in MS research."
Dr Timothy Coetzee, Fast Forward’s Executive Director, said: “We are pleased to partner with Apitope to accelerate the development of innovative therapies for MS. We are concerned about the small number of therapies in development for MS relative to other diseases and the impact that the current economic climate will have on development of new treatments for people with MS. Fast Forward is committed to reversing this trend by deploying its resources to spur development of innovative MS therapies and bring them to market as quickly as possible.”