CEOCFO-Members Login

November 12, 2012 Issue

The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information


Pioneering a Therapy and Diagnosis of Diseases associated with Human Endogenous Retrovirus Expression, GeNeuro is bringing Therapeutic for Multiple Sclerosis to Another Level by Identifying a Factor that can be the Cause of the Disease

Dr. Francois Curtin, MD

François graduated with an MD from Geneva Medical School and obtained a Master in Philosophy in Medical Statistics from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He has a MBA from Warwick Business School. After several years in academia, he joined Swissmedic, the Swiss Medicine Agency where he was responsible for the registration and market surveillance of neuropsychiatric drugs. Then, he joined Serono SA, then Merck Serono SA, where he worked in clinical and business development. Since 2009, François is the CEO of GeNeuro.

About GeNeuro:
GeNeuro develops a pioneering approach for the therapy and diagnosis of diseases associated with human endogenous retrovirus expression with a primary focus on Nervous System diseases.


Nervous System Diseases

18, chemin des Aulx, CH-1228 Plan-les-Ouates

Geneva, Switzerland

+41 22 794 50 85

Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – November 12, 2012

Mr. Curtin, what is the basic concept at GeNeuro?

Dr. Curtin: Our concept is breakthrough in terms of the therapeutic approach. We are interested in disorders which are associated with the expression of endogenous retroviruses. The concept behind the company started something like twenty years ago during a PhD thesis by GeNeuro’s Chief Scientific Officer, Herve Perron, who worked on viral origins of multiple sclerosis. During this work and by observing the tissues coming from the brains of patients with multiple sclerosis, it was possible to identify viral-like particles. After much work by himself as well as by other groups, it appeared that these viruses were in fact the expression of endogenous retroviruses which come from DNA integrated in the human DNA. About eight percent of our DNA is made of genes coming from these endogenous retroviruses, which infected our ancestors about twenty-five million years ago. The DNA was integrated into the human genome and transmitted generations through generations. It appears that this DNA can be reactivated in certain circumstances especially in the case of concomitant infections by common viruses. In the patients where the genes or the viruses are reactivated, it can lead to a disorder, and multiple sclerosis especially seems to be associated with re-expression of the envelope protein of this endogenous retrovirus, called MSRV (Multiple Sclerosis Associated Retrovirus). This endogenous retrovirus, when reactivated, can lead to the pathology of multiple sclerosis. After a great deal of work by our group at GeNeuro as well as in collaboration with leading academy groups especially in Europe, we have found that this envelope protein of the MSRV has pro-inflammatory characteristics and appears to be toxic for the brain cells, which are responsible for producing the myelin protein – a critical brain protein which is destroyed in case of multiple sclerosis.


CEOCFO: What are you working on specifically today?

Dr. Curtin: We are developing a drug which is a monoclonal antibody that is a recombinant antibody specifically made to target this envelope protein of MSRV. We are developing this drug as a treatment for multiple sclerosis. We are currently performing the clinical development with this drug addressing an unmet need in multiple sclerosis and we hope to be able to lead this development up to commercialization. We are also interested in other disorders which may be associated with the expression of the endogenous retrovirus, such as schizophrenia.


CEOCFO: How does your drug work?

Dr. Curtin: What happens now in the treatment of multiple sclerosis which affects about one person per thousand in North America or Europe, most of the treatments for this disorder block the immune system. They are blocking the inflammation, which is part of the process of the disorders. To a certain extent, these treatments work quite well at least for certain patients but they are not able to stop progression of the disorder. They are able to decrease the symptoms or decrease the number of the crises of multiple sclerosis, but they are not able to stop the progression of the disorder. Our advantage compared to the current treatments is that we have identified a target which is a possible cause of this disorder, and which our treatment could neutralize and therefore could stop the progression of the disorder. We are positioning our treatment upstream in the pathogenic cascade of the disorder and therefore we hope that we can bring to the patients a game changer in terms of therapeutic.


CEOCFO: What will the drug do? How is it going to interact in the body and what is going to happen to stop the progression of the disease?

Dr. Curtin: We know that this target is found in the blood and in the brain and especially in the brain lesions of multiple sclerosis. What we postulate is that our monoclonal antibody will neutralize the target in the blood and in the brain to prevent this protein to make its detrimental effect in the brain. We postulate that it will have an effect directly into the lesions of multiple sclerosis.


CEOCFO: Is this a new approach?

Dr. Curtin: We are the first ones to target this protein and our approach is breakthrough, nobody has tried it before.


CEOCFO: Has the medical community paid attention?
Dr. Curtin: Yes and for some time there was much questioning about how it can work. As long as we were working in the lab doing experiments with animals, there were always many questions. There is now a great deal of interest in the neurology community. There is a lot of interest because neurologists have seen that the treatments which have been offered to patients so far have very strong limitations and that the patients need a new therapeutic approach if we want to treat them efficiently.


CEOCFO: How far will your current funding take GeNeuro?

Dr. Curtin: As a small biotech company, we are living with money invested by our investors. We have very committed investors which are a startup incubator called Eclosion which is based in Geneva, Switzerland as well as the Mérieux Group, which is a French healthcare company that has been committed to the project since the beginning. We are now processing to do a C round of financing for the company. Most likely, the two original investors will bring another round of financing. We do not feel at the moment that the share will be open to other investors. With this new financing, we should be able to move ahead the project into a clinical trial of Phase IIb to look at the efficacy of the product in multiple sclerosis patients. This should allow us to run the company during 2013 and 2014.


CEOCFO: You mentioned schizophrenia; are there other potential diseases that you intend to look at down the line?

Dr. Curtin: Regarding schizophrenia, we have evidence from European studies as well as from a study in China, showing that in a subgroup of patients with schizophrenia, there is an activation of the endogenous retrovirus protein. Of course it is a major interest for us to look into that as another indication. I will say that there are possibly other indications especially in the field of autoimmune disorders where there could be an association with the expression of endogenous retroviruses. We have limited resources and limited number of people able to do the research, so at the moment we have to focus on the multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia as our main indications for development. We would be willing to extend the scope of the indications, but all our fifteen people are dedicated to the main program. It shows you the limitation of what we can do in a small company.


CEOCFO: Why should the business and investment community pay attention to GeNeuro?

Dr. Curtin: With our approach, we are really bringing therapeutic for Multiple Sclerosis to another level, by identifying a factor which can be the cause of the disease. If we are correct, we can change the therapeutic paradigm of multiple sclerosis. That is the major asset of our approach: to bring a totally different treatment from what has been done so far in the treatment of this disorder. The same approach would apply to schizophrenia for which the treatment was not really challenged since the early nineteen sixties. We are less advanced in schizophrenia but we can propose also a new approach in the treatment of this disorder.


Any reproduction or further distribution of this article without the express written consent of is prohibited.


“We are really bringing therapeutic for Multiple Sclerosis to another level, by identifying a factor which can be the cause of the disease. If we are correct, we can change the therapeutic paradigm of multiple sclerosis.”-Dr. Francois Curtin, MD


Drug Development Companies, GeNeuro, CEO Interviews 2012, New Multiple Sclerosis Drugs, Therapies for Nervous System Diseases, Human Endogenous Retrovirus Expression Therapeutics, Medical Diagnostics for Multiple Sclerosis, Recent CEO Interviews, Drug Development Stock, Healthcare Stocks, GeNeuro Press Releases, News, Companies looking for venture capital, Angel Investors, private companies looking for investors, healthcare companies seeking investors, drug development companies needing investment capital does not purchase or make
recommendation on stocks based on the interviews published.