Aspen, Parkinson. In partnership with the University Hospital Center (CHU) of Lille, InBrain Pharma, a start-up specializing in biotechnology, has developed a revolutionary method to treat Parkinson’s disease. This involves administering, for the first time in the world, dopamine directly into the brain of patients. The first clinical trials show spectacular results.
Although less widespread than Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease still affects no less than 200,000 people each year in France. And without wishing to be alarmist, qualifying Parkinson’s disease as an “old man’s disease” is a mistake since it can occur from the age of 35, according to Dr. Matthieu Fisichella, director of InBrain Pharma. To put it simply, this disease attacks the neurons that produce dopamine, which leads to many symptoms: slowness, stiffness, pain or even tremors.
A very significant impact on symptoms
“In the first five to ten years of the disease, oral treatment is usually sufficient. Then, it leads to complications in 50 to 80% of patients who constantly go from overdose to underdose”, explains Professor David Devos, neurologist at Lille University Hospital and specialist in Parkinson’s. The idea he has implemented in collaboration with InBrain Pharma is to bring dopamine directly into the brain. “An electric pump containing the drug is implanted in the abdomen and will send dopamine to the brain via a catheter,” explains Dr. Fisichella.
Four patients have been incorporated into the first clinical trial, which will include around twenty. “Usually, we don’t communicate so quickly, but the impact on the symptoms of the disease is so significant. With a treatment dose of 200 mg/24 hours, patients achieve perfect symptom control for 80% of their day,” enthuses Professor Devos. Furthermore, the implantation of this device is less invasive than deep brain stimulation and more ergonomic than external pump treatments.
A cost offset by a gain in autonomy
Admittedly, this treatment does not a priori slow down the progression of the disease. However, it allows patients to gain in quality of life and autonomy. It is on this last point that the economic somersault can be made compared to oral treatment: “The cost of implantation, of the order of 20,000 euros, will be quickly compensated by the cessation of aid to autonomy which does not will be more necessary,” says the scientist.
The ongoing trial will last until 2024. InBrain Pharma will then launch a phase 3 trial on around 100 patients in Europe. For this, the start-up must manage to raise around 16 million euros, knowing that the price of a single pump is 7,000 euros. “Research is even more expensive than Formula 1,” says Professor Devos. For commercial implementation, InBrain Pharma is counting on a deadline around 2028. Further still, the start-up is considering using its system to convey other drugs into the brain to treat certain neurodegenerative diseases. Hope for people with Alzheimer’s?