Iceland's deCODE genetics has initiated high-throughput screening on its Neuregulin 1 pathway targets in schizophrenia in collaboration with partner Roche. The aim is to identify small molecules that enhance signalling through the ErB4 receptor, thought to be one of the key receptors for Neuregulin 1. deCODE made the announcement at an analysts meeting held in Reykjavik on 1 July.
Mice in which the gene for Neuregulin 1 or ErB4 is deleted exhibit impaired neurotransmission that is characteristic of schizophrenia, raising expectations that small molecule drugs that improve ErB4 signalling could provide a new form of treatment for the disease.
Meanwhile, another project partnered with Roche, in the area of stroke, has passed the screening stage and medicinal chemistry work has now begun to optimise compound hits, according to the company.
deCODE is also hoping to start clinical trials of a lead candidate to treat peripheral arterial occlusive disease (PAOD) by the end of next year. The target in this programme is a novel G protein-coupled receptor. In animal studies, antagonists of this receptor have been shown to reduce the proliferation of smooth muscle cells involved in atherosclerosis.
Looking further back in the drug discovery pipeline, the Icelandic firm said it has identified a novel kinase target in asthma, coming out of its population gene discovery work.
Meanwhile, deCODE said it has achieved new milestones in three projects partnered with Roche Diagnostics and is accelerating its work to turn these discoveries into commercially available tests and services. The firm has identified sets of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in two genes on chromosome 5 that respectively confer more than twice the average risk of developing stroke and adult-onset, diabetes.