AVONTEC Receives Research Grant from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

(PresseBox) ( Martinsried/München, )
AVONTEC GmbH, a privately held bio-pharmaceutical company dedicated to the development of novel therapies for chronic inflammatory diseases today announced that the company was awarded a research grant from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). AVONTEC will receive about 0.57 million Euro in research funding for three years under the NGFN Transfer initiative, a program that supports translational research in the framework of the "Nationales Genomforschungsnetz (NGFN)". In cooperation with four academic research groups at the University Hospital Heidelberg lead by Prof. Markus Hecker, director of the Institute of Physiology and Pathophysiology of the University of Heidelberg, AVONTEC is dedicated to investigate new therapeutic concepts for the treatment of heart failure using decoy oligonucleotides (ODN), a new class of drugs that is based on natural nucleic acids. The consortium will validate novel drug targets relevant to the pathogenesis of heart failure, discover and develop novel decoy ODNs and evaluate possible approaches for the systemic delivery of these drugs. AVONTEC's Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Thomas Schulze commented: "We are pleased that the government has decided to reward AVONTEC's research activities for the development of decoy ODNs. Together with renowned research groups from the Departments of Cardiology and Physiology at the University Hospital Heidelberg we will endeavour to develop this drug class for clinical use in heart failure and have patients benefit from this new therapeutic approach."

About Heart Failure

Heart failure is a condition that can result from any structural or functional cardiac disorder that impairs the ability of the heart to fill with blood or pump a sufficient amount of blood through the body. Heart failure is caused by any condition which reduces the efficiency of the heart muscle, or myocardium, through damage or overloading. As such, it can be caused by a diverse array of conditions such as myocardial infarction, in which the heart muscle is starved of oxygen and dies, or hypertension, which increases the force of contraction needed to pump blood. Over time this increase in workload produce changes to the heart itself such as reduced contractility and stroke volume or increased size of the organ (hypertrophy) accompanied by increased heart rate. Heart failure is often undiagnosed due to a lack of a universally agreed definition and difficulties in diagnosis, particularly when the condition is considered "mild". Even with the best therapy, heart failure is associated with an annual mortality rate of 10% and is the leading cause of hospitalization in people older than 65 years.

About decoy ODNs

The altered expression of genes plays an important role in the development of many diseases and means to modify gene expression by inhibiting gene transcription have emerged as important therapeutic strategies in recent years. Regulation of gene expression is initiated by the interaction of a gene with transcription factors, proteins that specifically bind to that gene and induce the assembly of the transcription machinery. Accordingly, molecules that are able to block the binding of a transcription factor to its target genes will modify their expression and thus influence the biological response regulated by these genes.

Short double stranded DNA molecules contain the specific DNA binding sequence of a transcription factor and can thus bind in a highly specific manner. By achieving a sufficient concentration of decoy ODNs in the target cell, the authentic interaction between the transcription factor and its endogenous binding sequence in genomic DNA is inhibited and subsequent initiation of gene expression is impaired. The commercialization of this therapeutic concept was already rewarded with the German Founder Price (Deutscher Gründerpreis) in 2003.
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