Quebec City, January 13, 2014 – Université Laval and Roche recently signed a collaborative research agreement to test promising compounds for several disorders of the brain, including autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
Thanks to this joint initiative, Université Laval researcher Yves De Koninck and his team will be able to pursue the development of the many scientific discoveries and advances they have made in the last 10 years. Dr. De Koninck is a Professor in Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine, Scientific Director of the Institut Universitaire en Santé Mentale de Québec, and an internationally renowned expert in the fields of neurology and neurophotonics.
The joint research program will focus on evaluating the potential of various molecules affecting the activity of a protein called KCC2 normally present in neurons of the brain and spinal cord. Dr. De Koninck’s recent work, published in major scientific journals, has established a very clear link between neurocircuitry defects and insufficient levels of KCC2 in nerve cells.
“Based on our analyses to date, we are very optimistic about the potential of the molecules we will be testing in collaboration with Roche,” said Dr. De Koninck. “The main advantage of a drug affecting the regulation of the KCC2 protein is that it would allow ill nerve cells to function normally again without affecting healthy cells, thus minimizing the risk of side effects,” the researcher explained.
Preliminary work by Yves De Koninck and his team suggests an even broader potential for targeting KCC2, as the protein may be involved in a wide range of neurological disorders beyond ASD, such as chronic pain, epilepsy, chronic stress, anxiety and schizophrenia. These research avenues will also be explored under the joint agreement with Roche.
“We have a number of reasons to be proud of this collaboration with Roche,” said Sophie D’Amours, Université Laval’s Vice President, Research and Innovation. “First, because its objective is to apply cutting-edge research findings that can potentially improve the quality of life for millions of people; and second, because it recognizes the unique expertise and world-class technology developed by Dr. De Koninck and his team in the fields of neuroscience and neurophotonics. We would also like to mention the support we received from SOVAR, our technology transfer organization, for the development of this technology.”
About Université Laval
Located in Quebec’s historic capital, a World Heritage City, Université Laval is the first French-language university in North America. It is one of Canada’s leading research universities, ranking 7th among the country’s 94 university-level institutions in terms of research funding with more than $300 million devoted to research last year. Université Laval’s 1,400 professors-researchers share their knowledge with 48,000 students, 10,000 of whom are enrolled in graduate-level programs.
About the IUSMQ Research Centre
Since 1987, the IUSMQ Research Centre has been committed to excellence and the search for better ways to alleviate the suffering of patients with brain disorders. It is dedicated to advancing knowledge on the causes and treatment of brain disorders in children, adults and elderly persons through high-technology research focused on neurons and the brain. Affiliated with Université Laval, the IUSMQ Research Centre brings together world-class researchers and constitutes for the greater Quebec City region an innovative training and teaching facility in state-of-the-art fields such as neuroscience and genetics.