Khondrion has joined a recently established consortium of universities and industry partners to train international PhD students whose research is focused on nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), a coenzyme central to metabolism and which plays a key role in mitochondrial function. The NADIS International Student Training Network was established in 2022 and is funded by the European Union. We sat down with Dr. Herma Renkema, Chief Scientific Officer at Khondrion, who is leading the Company’s involvement in the programme to learn more.

  1. Can you tell us a little more about the NAD+ International Student Training Network (NADIS) consortium and why Khondrion got involved?

NADIS was started by a group of young researchers, led by Riekelt Houtkooper, a professor at Amsterdam UMC. Their desire was to establish a consortium that would look at all aspects of NAD+ metabolism. This is one of the most important and interesting molecules in the body, regulating energy metabolism, DNA damage repair, gene expression and stress response. So there is a huge amount to be learned that could benefit human health.

Not only is NAD+ well known as a key player in metabolism, its reduced form (NADH) is the primary electron donor in the mitochondrial respiratory chain. In mitochondrial disease, the oxidation of NADH by the respiratory chain is impaired. Sonlicromanol, Khondrion’s lead compound which is currently in clinical trials for MELAS spectrum disorders, is know to have a role in restoring the NADH/NAD+ balance of cells. 

Our interest in the consortium stems also from earlier research exploring whether niacin, a NAD booster, could be a potential treatment for mitochondrial myopathy to delay progression of disease and normalize muscle metabolism ( So key for researchers looking for novel approaches to treat the causes of mitochondrial disease. The plan, therefore, is to study a possible synergy between sonlicromanol and NAD pool booster treatment, initially in pre-clinical experiments.


  1. Why are training networks like NADIS important for the future of life sciences in Europe?

These initiatives provide students with strong research training and help to build their research networks of experts and peers. The consortium is funded by the European Union as an International Scientist-Training Network. It’s great that such funding is being provided to this group whose goal is to train the next generation of metabolic researchers, providing them with the necessary expertise that will help them to become the future leaders of their fields.


  1. How many PhD students will be with Khondrion for their training and how long will they be with you?

We will have one student who’ll be joining us for three years. They will be dedicated to working on the NADIS project but the benefit of being in-house, within the Khondrion team, is that they’ll be looking at their work through the lens of a mitochondrial disease research unit and we’ll be there to support them.  


  1. Will there be opportunities for knowledge sharing/insights between participating consortium members?

Absolutely, that is the whole idea of the consortium. The student who joins us will actually do two secondments in other laboratories within the consortium to encourage collaboration between the students and also the wider teams. Equally, Khondrion will also be accepting secondments of students from other academic centres participating in the consortium into our R&D lab.


  1. Why sign up to something like this? How does Khondrion benefit?

As a company that’s dedicated to developing new treatments for patients with mitochondrial disease, I believe we have a responsibility to support the research community – the teams and individual scientists –  who are doing fundamental research into cell metabolism and mitochondrial function. And, of course, we hope that the knowledge sharing that will result from the consortium will also help us in our work. It’s a win-win.   


  1. What happens at the end of the consortium?

Well, we have three years of actual lab work for the student, and with the run up to starting, and then wrapping up their studies, we’re probably looking at a four year project. So it’s a little early to tell. But I would hope that this consortium will make great strides in furthering our understanding of the role of NAD+ in mitochondrial disease. And, of course, provide us and the wider scientific community with some new jumping off points for future research into drug discovery and development. Perhaps once our student is settled into their work, I can persuade them to talk to you about their research and what they’re learning!