Dr. Donald Weaver
Dr. Donald Weaver and his micropharma company receive prestigious grant from Wellcome Trust. (Photo: UHN)

The prestigious Wellcome Trust has awarded $4.7 million Seeding Drug Discovery Award to Dr. Donald Weaver and his micropharma company, Treventis Corp., to continue developing a potentially disease-modifying drug to cure Alzheimer's disease.

"There is a growing need to develop effective therapeutics for neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's that are ravaging growing numbers of people in mid-to-late life in industrialized societies," says Weaver, who has recently taken over as Director of the Toronto Western Hospital Research Institute. "These funds will help us to shepherd a drug from developmental infancy to first-in-human clinical testing." 

Wellcome Trust, a United Kingdom-based independent charity, is the world's second largest private funder of medical research in the world, after Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Wellcome Trust funding is extremely competitive to obtain, traditionally being awarded primarily to researchers within the UK.  Only about three or four drug discovery projects are chosen to be funded, and they must offer a potential new solution, as well as a strong likelihood of making it to market.

Weaver is the only qualified person in Canada to be a practicing neurologist with a PhD in medicinal chemistry and drug design. His goal is nothing short of creating drugs that can alter the course of disease.

And he has a pretty good shot at it.

Working with a multidisciplinary team, using high-speed computers and quantum mechanics calculations, Weaver has already designed one of the first "disease-modifying" drugs for Alzheimer's that reached Phase III human clinical trials worldwide.

Among his many academic accolades and awards, Weaver was the recipient of the U.S. 2007 Centennial Award for being "one of the two researchers in the world with the highest likelihood of discovering a 'curative' drug for Alzheimer's".

Alzheimer's is the only cause of death among the top 10 illnesses without a way to prevent it, cure it or even slow its progression. Deaths from Alzheimer's increased 68 percent between 2000 and 2010, while deaths from other major illnesses, including heart disease - the number one cause of death - decreased. Within a generation, the number of Canadians with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia will more than double, ranging between 1 and 1.3 million people.

Using a novel, proprietary drug design platform, Treventis is focused on the discovery and early stage development of disease-modifying small molecule drugs for Alzheimer's and other protein misfolding diseases. The Wellcome Trust funds will support continued work on these compounds, with the goal of designing and developing one that can safely and effectively treat people with chronic neurological dementias such as Alzheimer's.  

In addition to its therapeutic programs, Treventis has a new approach to the development of diagnostics for early diagnosis and monitoring of treatment effects in Alzheimer's disease.

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