Nikolaos co-founded Keregen Therapeutics, a UCL start-up company focused on the development of first generation small molecule Nrf2 inducers for diseases where there is an unmet clinical need. In 2015, he was part of the team that won the OneStart Europe bio-entrepreneur competition and was awarded £100k and lab space to take the company forward. Nikolaos is due to complete his PhD in medicinal chemistry at UCL, where he also obtained an MSc in Drug Discovery with distinction. His research interests lie in the field of chemical biology with a current focus on the Keap1-Nrf2 signalling pathway and its interplay with mitochondrial function and quality control.
Non-covalent small molecule inducers of Nrf2 for the treatment of Parkinson's Disease
Nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a transcription factor that orchestrates one of the main cellular stress responses by regulating the expression of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cytoprotective gene products. Nrf2 expression levels decline with age, leaving tissues, particularly the CNS, vulnerable to oxidative damage. Accumulating evidence from in vitro and in vivo studies in models of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) suggest that activation of Nrf2 could slow down or even reverse PD progression. However, traditional Nrf2 inducers suffer from a lack of specificity in their mode of action, compromising the Nrf2-mediated neuroprotection and limiting their clinical applicability.
Keregen’s primary drug discovery program aims to develop first-in-class non-covalent small molecule inducers of Nrf2 for the treatment of PD, which are expected to show several advantages compared to current therapies. This presentation will plot the journey from our discovery of the distinctive biology of reversible Nrf2 inducers through winning OneStart Europe 2015, and beyond. In addition, the challenges involved in setting up a biotech start-up, whilst simultaneously translating an academic project into a viable business proposition will also be discussed.