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

22 March 2018

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.

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Duke-NUS commercializes discovery to deliver therapeutics across blood brain barrier

1 March 2018

Intellectual property (IP) derived from discoveries made at Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) have been licensed to a newly formed biotech start-up, Travecta Therapeutics Pte Ltd, a Singapore-based drug discovery company. Travecta plans to use the Duke-NUS technology to develop new therapeutic agents that can be selectively delivered across the blood brain barrier for treatment of diseases of the brain, eye and central nervous system.

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MFSD2A is a transporter for the essential OMEGA-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid.

Nature, 2014. 509(7501): p. 503-6

Here we identify a member of the major facilitator super family— Mfsd2a (previously an orphan transporter) —as the major transporter for DHA uptake into brain. Mfsd2a is found to be expressed exclusively in endothelium of the blood–brain barrier of micro-vessels. Importantly, Mfsd2a-knockout mice have markedly reduced uptake of labelled LPC-DHA, and other LPCs, from plasma into the brain, demonstrating that Mfsd2a is required for brain uptake of DHA. Our findings reveal an unexpected essential physiological role of plasma-derived LPCs in brain growth and function.

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