What does Mnemogen do exactly?
We are developing a comprehensive screening assay to discover cognitive drugs. We aim to have a humanized system where thousands of compounds can be tested for effects on cognitive function in a fast, reliable, and unbiased way. In this way revolutionary new drugs against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can be more quickly brought to market.
The disruptive aspect of our start-up is that it is unbiased. There is no preselected target molecule or pathway against which drug candidates are screened, unlike traditional cognitive drug discovery that has repeatedly failed. In addition, it is humanized – based on human induced pluripotent stem cell derived neurons. Many cognitive drugs have failed due to lack of translation between animal models and humans. Our system eliminates the need for animal testing. This makes it possible to test a vast number of candidate compounds in a high-throughput fashion while consistently getting reliable results.
Which team is working behind Mnemogen?
We are a team of three neuroscientists with expertise in different areas. Camin was a project leader at the European Neuroscience Institute in Göttingen and is now at Charité in Berlin. Ermis did his PhD in Gottingen and now is also in Charité and Henning is finishing his PhD in Göttingen.
What is your goal?
Our goal is to help dementia patients. Over 44 million people worldwide suffer from this devastating disease, 1.5 million people in Germany, and until today only palliative care is available. In addition, the global burden to the healthcare system is estimated at 31 billion euros annually. A memory-enhancing drug will have a tremendous impact on the lives of these patients since it will ameliorate the effects of degenerative cognitive diseases, and enhance their cognitive performance. Consequently, the burden and expenses of healthcare providers will be alleviated.
How did the idea come up?
We came up with our idea after repeatedly seeing seemingly promising drugs against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease fail to pass clinical trials due to a lack of effectiveness. As far as we know, past and present efforts to find drugs against cognitive disorders – especially dementia – are focused on specific molecules that were thought to affect these processes. A characteristic example is amyloid beta; until today every compound shown to reduce the formation of amyloid beta deposits has consistently failed to stop the loss of cognitive abilities of patients, or to extend their healthy lifespan.
After many discussions we realized that we had to face dementia as it truly is: a multifactorial disease. It is not just the outcome of a specific protein or a single factor. Therefore, we are targeting the collective outcome of all involved genes, known and yet unknown, encompassing the “memory signature” in order to select the most potent and promising pharmaceutical compounds according to their ability to target this signature.
What is the Lift Off start-up competition?
Lift-off is a start-up competition where participants can present their idea to a wide audience.
What have you learned from the Lift Off start-up competition?
This year’s Lift-Off preparation happened to be during restrictive measures due to COVID-19, therefore we didn’t have the chance to meet in person with mentors and experts. However, this was a lesson in adapting our outreach strategies. A video pitch was something new to our team, since we were used to presenting our ideas in-person. But thanks to Lift-Off we had the opportunity to learn this skill.
Which teams would you recommend to participate in the next foundation competition?
We would recommend that any team with a potentially marketable idea participate in the next competition. It is a great opportunity to apply your academic research, test your idea, and learn more about entrepreneurship.