IRBM, Rainwater Charitable Foundation and Weill Cornell Medicine Join Forces to Progress Therapies for Neurodegenerative Disorders

  • Multi-year drug discovery collaboration to identify small molecule cGAS inhibitors for treating neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s

ROME, July 12, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — IRBM, Rainwater Charitable Foundation (RCF, based in Fort Worth, Texas), a private family foundation, and Weill Cornell Medicine (based in New York) announce the start of a multi-year drug discovery collaboration to identify small molecule cGAS (cyclic GMP-AMP synthase) inhibitors for the treatment of tauopathies and other neurodegenerative diseases. Financial details are not disclosed.

The collaboration brings together IRBM’s capabilities in drug discovery and development, RCF’s medical research resources via the Tau Consortium, and the expertise of Weill Cornell Medicine neuroscientist Dr. Li Gan to pursue innovative therapies for neurodegenerative disorders.

Neurodegenerative disorders include dementias, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Huntington’s disease, and tauopathies, so called as they feature the accumulation in affected brain regions of large aggregates of tau proteins, often called tau tangles. The spread of tangles induces toxic neuroinflammatory responses, and often tracks closely with disease progression. This collaboration will support the progression of Dr. Li Gan’s innovative work in targeting neuroimmune pathways to preserve cognitive resilience against tau aggregates through inhibition of cGAS. This protein is the primary sensor of cytosolic double-stranded DNA (dsDNA), and when dysfunctional, is involved in toxic neuroimmune responses to tau tangles.

IRBM’s Chief Science Officer Carlo Toniatti said: “Neurodegenerative disorders can be devasting, as they cruelly, and eventually fatally, steal away an individual’s ability to be themselves. We are therefore privileged to start our work on Alzheimer’s with renowned specialists in the area: Rainwater Charitable Foundation and Weill Cornell Medicine. Together, we aim to bring a wealth of first-in-class, pre-clinical assets into clinical trials to improve patient outcomes. As a first goal, we will provide our expertise in drug discovery and development to support the translation of Dr. Gan’s outstanding neuroscience research into effective therapeutics. I look forward to seeing how our collaboration will make a difference.”

The Rainwater Charitable Foundation’s Glenn Harris, PhD, Director of Research Partnerships, Business Development and the Drug Discovery Lead, said: “The RCF is committed to funding neurodegenerative disease research with the goal of developing effective, cutting-edge treatments for primary tauopathies. To date, we have provided over $160 million in funding to promising research programs. Given the myriad challenges of developing drugs for these complex disorders, we hope to continue supporting this important work. We recognize the great strides and continued potential of Dr. Gan’s neuroscience drug discovery endeavors and are honored to partner with her and Weill Cornell Medicine.”

Weill Cornell Medicine’s Dr. Li Gan* said: “Tau is a major driver of cognitive decline in AD and related dementia, but to date we have had no clinical success in any anti-tau therapies. By advancing our novel anti-tau therapy, I see this collaboration leading to a fundamental difference to this devastating situation.”

Roughly six million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease, and hundreds of thousands of others have less well-known tau-related neurodegenerative disorders such as frontotemporal dementia and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP).

Weill Cornell Medicine Enterprise Innovation negotiated and helped facilitate the collaboration between Dr. Gan and the RCF with the aim to support efforts to discover new therapies for debilitating neuro-degenerative diseases.

*Dr. Li Gan is the founder of Aeton Therapeutics Inc. Dr. Gan also holds equity in the company and serves as a consultant.

Background information


IRBM is an innovative research organization working across all aspects of drug discovery and early development. The integrated team of seasoned researchers fosters collaborations with organizations from the pharmaceutical, biotech, non-profit and academic sectors to accelerate the development of vaccines and medicines. More than 200 scientists work at IRBM’s state-of-the-art R&D facility near Rome where projects are carried out “under one roof” enabling rapid cycle times and close integration of the scientific teams. IRBM’s scientists have discovered several marketed therapeutics, and more than 25 molecules have progressed into clinical testing. For more information, please visit

The Rainwater Foundation & The Tau Consortium

The Rainwater Charitable Foundation was founded by Texas investor and philanthropist Richard Rainwater in 1991 to support childhood-focused initiatives. In 2009, the RCF added the Tau Consortium as a second funding program after Rainwater was diagnosed with PSP, which affects nerve cells that control walking, balance, vision, speech, and swallowing. The Tau Consortium’s mission is to accelerate the development of new treatments for frontotemporal dementias, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases involving the dysfunctional tau protein. The Tau Consortium helps scientists to work collaboratively, engage strategic partners, and establish the critical resources needed to accelerate progress for understanding the underlying causes of these tau-related neurodegenerative diseases. The RCF has funded more than $160 million worth of neurodegenerative disease research that holds the promise of effective, cutting-edge treatments. For more details see the website here.

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