Bioactive PD-001 Molecule – another UM product developed by Prof. Lee Ming-Yuen of ICMS which is likely to serve as an antidote for Parkinson’s Disease (PD), has received a lot of industry attention. In 2014, in the presence of Portuguese President Aníbal António Cavaco Silva, UM signed a statement of work with the Portuguese company TechnoPhage to strengthen the collaboration between Macao and Portugal in Chinese medical sciences. The agreement between UM and Technophage signalled an official start of the collaboration, including the technology transfer of the PD-001 project. As the project principle investigator, Prof Lee has high hopes for his product to enter the food and nutrition supplement market in Europe.
So far, the team has been granted a number of patents for the PD-001 Molecule by authorities in the United States and mainland China. As a biotechnology company based in Portugal, TechnoPhage showed an interest in collaboration in the early stage of the project, Prof Lee notes. Now, the molecule is almost ready to be manufactured into a dietary supplement. ‘This project targets the European and Portuguese-speaking markets. TechnoPhage is more familiar with the European regulations on novel food and it is easier for them to bring our product there and apply for registration. There will be a huge market in European countries and in Brazil. The cooperation has been smooth and that is partly due to Macao’s role as a service platform between China and Portuguese-speaking countries,’ says Prof Lee.
Second to Alzheimer’s disease in terms of prevalence, Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that mainly affects the motor system. Currently, about 7 million people around the globe suffer of PD and over 2 million of them are Chinese. The motor symptoms of the disease are a result from the death of cells in the substantia nigra, a region of the midbrain. Generally coming on slowly over time, the symptoms include shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement, and difficulty with walking. However, there is no preventive or long-term effective treatment or health products available. It has taken Prof Lee’s team nine years to isolate the bioactive ingredient of PD-001 from Alpinia oxyphylla that could prevent and ameliorate the development of the disease. This finding is a joint effort of many cohorts of students and faculty members involved in the project.
According to Prof Lee, the cause of Parkinson’s disease generally remains unknown and the key pathological change in the body is dopaminergic neuronal loss in the substantia nigra, resulting in insufficient dopamine generated for the motor system. He observes that current clinical treatments only relieve the symptoms of the disease. The team successfully extracts and isolates PD-001 – a small molecule with a novel structure from the fruit of Alpinia oxyphylla. From laboratory studies designed to determine the preventive and therapeutic effects of PD-001 on different animal models of PD, the team found that treatment with PD-001 can significantly reduce cellular damage in the dopaminergic neurons and can improve dyskinesia. ‘If things go smoothly, this project will be the first case of developing pure compound from traditional Chinese medicine as an international novel food ingredient. As to drug development, clinical trials will take longer time,’ says Prof Lee.