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AstronauTx, a new UK-based biotech company working on dementia treatment, has secured £6.5 million investment from the Dementia Discovery Fund (DDF).

First company created from Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Drug Discovery Alliance, AstronauTx will take forward the work done by the UCL scientists.

“This is a fantastic step forward for the UK’s dementia drug discovery work and a great example of how collaboration across the dementia research landscape is fast-tracking the development of new treatments,” said David Cameron, president of Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Cameron’s government formed DDF, in partnership with pharmaceutical companies and Alzheimer’s Research UK, as a venture capital fund dedicated to help discover and develop effective therapies for dementia.

AstronauTx will work with the researchers at the UCL Drug Discovery Institute (DDI) who have identified a potential way to control the activity of astrocytes, crucial support cells in the brain, and allow nerve cells in the brain to function better for longer.

A dedicated centre working towards new approaches to tackle diseases that cause dementia, UCL DDI is part of Alzheimer’s Research UK’s £30 million Drug Discovery Alliance – the UK’s largest university-based dementia drug discovery initiative.

The collaborative project with AstronauTx will look to develop new medicines designed to reset the behaviour of astrocytes, and thereby limit the damage to the brain in Alzheimer’s disease.

“Partnerships with industry are crucial for the success of our work,” said Prof Paul Whiting, chief scientific officer of the UCL DDI.

“Biotechs like AstronauTx bring vital expertise to bear in drug discovery and early-stage clinical testing. Ultimately pharmaceutical companies are the ones with the resources to support expensive trials that will get potential drugs out of the lab and into the hands of the people who need them.”

The investment commitment from the DDF is subject to achieving progress milestones in the project.

“The novel research conducted by the UCL DDI demonstrated a compelling investment opportunity for the DDF and led us to form this new company. We look forward to continuing to help AstronauTx progress its potential therapies through to the clinic,” said Angus Grant, chief executive of the DDF.

Dr David Reynolds, chief executive of AstronauTx, added: “Scientists are revealing more and more about the role astrocytes play in the disease and while they may previously have been seen as neutral bystanders, it’s becoming increasing clear that they represent a promising target for future drugs.”

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