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Tackling the blood-brain barrier: Duke-NUS discovery leads to startup Travecta

HONG KONG – Travecta Therapeutics Pte Ltd. is the latest startup to join Singapore’s biotech block. The newly formed drug discovery company is based on intellectual property derived from discoveries made at Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS). Travecta is based on the findings of its scientific founder, David Silver, who published research in 2014 that established a path and transport system that specifically takes lipids such as the omega-3 fatty acid – docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – to the brain. Silver discovered that a transporter protein called Mfsd2a carries DHA in the chemical form of lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC) to the brain. “The challenge of delivering central nervous system drugs lies in the blood-brain barrier, which prevents 98 percent of smallmolecule drugs from entering the brain,” said Silver, who is also deputy director of the cardiovascular and metabolic diseases program at Duke-NUS. “MSfd2a is a lysolipid transporter that is highly expressed at the blood-brain barrier and enables the exploitation of its natural transport mechanism to deliver therapeutics conjugated to lysolipid scaffolds for delivery across the blood-brain barrier. “The pathway we found can be exploited to deliver new or existing drugs which have proven ineffective due to their lack of transport across the blood-brain barrier,” he told BioWorld.

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