What scientific innovation are you most excited about? Which innovation do you think will have the most impact in the next 20 years?
I don’t know if I could point to a specific invention or innovation, but in terms of human health, I think that neurology is the last unexplored frontier, and we have only begun to scratch the surface in our understanding of the brain. In our work with neurodegenerative disease, there are mutations that cause protein misfolding and disease, and our goal is to correct the misfolded protein.
Our lead program in Parkinson’s disease involves a structurally targeted allosteric regulator that restores function to an enzyme associated with the disease. Parkinson’s disease involves damage to dopaminergic neurons, so restoring this enzyme function has beneficial downstream effects in terms of ensuring dopaminergic neuronal survival and keeping dopamine production up, hopefully reversing or preventing disease progression.
Our current work is very promising, but again there’s so much more to be done. As our population ages and continues to live longer, neurodegenerative disease will affect more people, and if we can halt or slow disease progression, that is going to make a big difference for the people affected as well as their families. And this ties back to my excitement working in this industry and with Gain’s SEE-TxTM platform, as we have the ability to start shaping the therapeutic landscape in this area.
Do you think we will have an effective therapeutic for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s in the near future?
I have no doubt we will have effective therapies that protect the brain from neurodegeneration, but the question is when. The difficulty with neurodegenerative diseases are the long time it takes for these diseases to develop, and so being able to prove a drug has an impact and prevents neurodegeneration also takes a long time.
This extended timeframe can make financing these clinical studies very difficult, especially for small biotech companies. We have an advantage in this respect as we’re focusing on a specific population of Parkinson’s patients with a genetic mutation in a disease-associated enzyme that results in earlier onset of the disease and faster progression. So, there is an opportunity to compress the development time frame significantly.
This is one of the areas that makes me hopeful we will be successfully funded and able to take this program all the way to market and ultimately to patients. Also, I think once we really start to understand the genetic background of these diseases, it will allow for more targeted intervention with more specific therapeutics.
You joined Gain in 2021 as the Chief Operating Officer. What was your first impression and what does your COO role entail?
One of things that most impressed me when I joined Gain was the depth of experience on our research team. Most of them are PhDs or have multi-year experience in industry, and for them to have joined a small company like Gain gave me a good feeling about coming on board. My role as Chief Operating Officer focuses heavily on business development.
Business development, like most things in business, is really a team sport and it takes many individuals to bring a successful pitch together, from scientists to product developers to strategists. I support the team with experience on how to structure relationships and pull everything together. I also, in more general terms, make sure the company operates and functions well.
It reminds me of being the coach of my kids’ soccer teams – making sure everybody understands what we need to achieve, identifying gaps in the line-up, and then putting people in the right spot, and letting them push themselves and their team mates to do what they do best.
To end on a fun note, what book are you currently reading or what is a hobby you enjoy?
A lot of the reading I do is related to work, but the great thing about working at Gain is it doesn’t really feel like work because it’s so engaging and there’s so much to do and things I still need to learn. So, I’m reading management development books and reading up on the therapeutic areas we’re working in.
In order to decompress and get away from it all, I do a lot of endurance cycling. It helps me clear my mind when I’m out there on the road, listening to the whirring of the chain and the humming of the tires on smooth tarmac.
What’s been your favorite ride?
My favorite ride was probably the seven-day ride across the Alps on a mountain bike from southern Germany through Austria and Switzerland into Italy. Riding through those Alpine regions really takes you away from everything and you’re just outside enjoying pure nature.
Matthias Alder is the Chief Operating Officer of Gain Therapeutics. You can learn more here