Dr Rafael J. Yáñez-Muñoz from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, together with colleagues from London, Cambridge and The Netherlands, has received funding from the International Spinal Research Trust (ISRT). This translational award provides funds for the development of a treatment for Spinal cord injury (SCI).
The CHASE-IT project aims to develop chondroitinase as a clinical therapy for SCI. Chondroitinase, a bacterial protein, has been found to be one of the most promising therapeutics emerging from pre-clinical studies. Patients with SCI are prevented from recovery by the presence of excess scar tissue. Chondroitinase efficiently breaks down scar tissue and has been shown to increase regeneration, plasticity and recovery of function in several mammalian models. Chondroitinase therefore has huge potential for translation to a clinical therapy. However, the delivery of chondroitinase to the injury site needs to be optimised. Overcoming this technical hurdle is critical for its path to the clinic – something which this project addresses.
Dr Rafael J. Yáñez-Muñoz is the co-ordinator of this ISRT-funded international consortium, which will progress chondroitinase towards the clinical translation path.
Together with Dr Yáñez-Muñoz AGCT lab’s expertise in safer gene therapy methods, research will be performed by researchers specialising in in vivo models of SCI, gene regulation and protein engineering from King’s College London, Cambridge University and the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience.
For realization of this research to eliminate paralysis in people, much will depend upon the work and perseverance of the paralyzed patients and their families in helping the U.K. charity called Spinal Research in bringing chondroitinase (Chase) to the clinic. Thankfully the Spinal Research charity (which receives no government funding) has put patients before profits and is sponsoring a large animal trial to show efficacy which is nearing completion. The trial may ultimately bring us one step closer to eliminating the decades old bottleneck for utilizing the “scar busting” enzyme. They call the project Chase It. Unfortunately, for decades the Acorda company acquired a plethora of chondroitinase patents and then abandoned it’s research and development many years ago to pursue mass distribution of an MS drug called Ampyra rather than investing in the chondroitinase enzyme for clinical use in patients with SCI, stroke and heart arrhythmia.
Perhaps it would be good idea for the Acorda company to donate the patents to the UK Spinal Research charity since the majority of the chondroitinase research was government funded in the UK and the NIH to begin with.