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Esya Labs Awarded $452,000 Grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) to Develop Peripheral Biomarkers for Parkinson's Disease

publication date: Nov 23, 2022
author/source: Esya Labs



Esya Labs, a startup dedicated to developing early-stage biomarkers for neurodegenerative diseases, has been awarded a grant of $452,000 from The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF).

Esya Labs will be partnering with MSD (tradename of Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, N.J., USA) for this grant to validate peripheral biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease and accelerate potential therapeutics development. MJFF’s mission is to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease through funding diagnostic and therapeutic research efforts to improve the lives of those living with Parkinson’s disease.

This September, Esya Labs was awarded an MJFF grant through the “Accelerating the Translation of Parkinson’s Disease Therapies Program” to develop ‘Esya PD360: A multi-parametric platform for establishing a novel lysosome-based biomarker for Parkinson’s disease.’ The objective of this research is to develop a cost-effective and minimally invasive biomarker panel from skin and blood, facilitating Parkinson’s disease diagnosis and treatment.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease affecting more than 6 million individuals worldwide. It is characterized by a loss of motor function which can result in symptoms that get progressively worse over time. Both genetic and sporadic forms of Parkinson’s disease have been linked with subcellular organelles called lysosomes, which are responsible for clearing the build-up of toxic proteins implicated in neurodegeneration.

This project will be led by Dr. Souvik Modi, Director of Research and Development at Esya Labs, in collaboration with Dr. Robert Drolet, Principal Scientist in the Neuroscience Department at MSD Research Laboratories. Esya’s patented dual intracellular ion sensors will be used to ratiometrically and quantitatively measure ion homeostasis in organelles within the endo-lysosomal pathway, to determine whether lysosomal dysfunction is a hallmark of peripherally accessible cells in idiopathic and genetic PD.

CEO of Esya Labs, Dhivya Venkat stated, “We are delighted to be awarded this grant funding from The Michael J. Fox Foundation. There is a crucial need to better understand the role of the endo-lysosomal pathway in Parkinson’s disease and to identify biomarkers that aid early precise diagnosis, as well as help, facilitate therapeutic indications. We are honored to be working with MJFF and Merck towards this goal.”

“With no known cure, there is a significant medical need for therapies to slow or stop the progression of Parkinson’s disease,” said Jason M. Uslaner, Ph.D., vice president and head of neuroscience discovery, MSD Research Laboratories. “We look forward to collaborating with Esya Labs to develop peripheral biomarkers that could help with early detection and stratification of Parkinson’s disease and impact our research efforts to discover new treatment options.” 

About Esya Labs

Esya Labs is building a molecular brain health-monitoring platform for neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease using their patented DNA nanoprobes and neuro multi-omics technology. Esya’s technology was licensed from Professor Yamuna Krishnan’s lab at the University of Chicago and co-founded with entrepreneur Dhivya Venkat. Prof. Krishnan was recently awarded the NIH-Pioneer Award for High-Risk High Reward research, which supports scientists with “outstanding records of creativity pursuing new research directions to develop pioneering approaches to major challenges in biomedical, social science, and behavioral research.” Dr. Krishnan



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