Espe, Parkinson. InBrain Pharma, a biotechnology start-up, has partnered with the University Hospital Center (CHU) of Lille to develop a revolutionary way to treat Parkinson’s disease. For the first time in the world, dopamine is administered directly into the brain of patients. The first clinical studies show spectacular results.
Although less prevalent than Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease still affects no fewer than 200,000 people in France each year. And without wanting to be alarming, classifying Parkinson’s disease as a “disease of old age” is a mistake because, according to Dr. Matthieu Fisichella, Director of InBrain Pharma, can appear from the age of 35. Simply put, this disease attacks the neurons that produce dopamine, resulting in many symptoms: slowness, stiffness, pain, or even tremors.
A very significant effect on the symptoms
“In the first five to ten years of illness, oral treatment is usually sufficient. Then it leads to complications in 50 to 80% of patients who keep going from overdosing to underdosing,” explains Professor David Devos, neurologist at Lille University Hospital and Parkinson’s specialist. The idea, which he implemented in collaboration with InBrain Pharma, is to deliver dopamine directly to the brain. “An electric pump containing the drug is implanted in the abdomen and sends dopamine to the brain through a catheter,” explains Dr. Fishichella.
Four patients have been enrolled in the first clinical study, which will include approximately twenty. “We don’t normally communicate that 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 80% of the day,” says Professor Devos happily. In addition, the implantation of this device is less invasive than deep brain stimulation and more ergonomic than external pump treatments.
A cost compensation through a gain in autonomy
However, this treatment does not automatically slow down the progression of the disease. However, it allows patients to gain quality of life and autonomy. On this last point, the economic somersault can be made compared to oral treatment: “The implantation costs, of the order of 20,000 euros, are quickly compensated by the cessation of the autonomy assistance, which will no longer be necessary, “says the scientist.
The ongoing study will last until 2024. InBrain Pharma will then start a phase 3 study with around 100 patients in Europe. The start-up has to raise around 16 million euros for this, knowing full well 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 expects a date around 2028. In addition, the start-up is considering using its system to deliver other drugs to the brain to treat certain neurodegenerative diseases. Hope for people with Alzheimer’s?