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Biotech Wins Fox Grant for Parkinson’s Drug Delivery Test

Brain scan (National Institute of Mental Health)

(National Institute of Mental Health)

Intec Pharma, a biotechnology company in Jerusalem, Israel, received a $705,000 grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for a clinical trial of its system to deliver the drug combination carbidopa and levodopa to treat Parkinson’s disease. The company expects to complete the test in the first quarter of 2014.

Intec Pharma developed an oral drug delivery technology it calls an accordion pill that makes it possible to extend the release of drug payloads in the stomach above or near the site of absorption for up to 12 hours to improve the drug’s efficacy. Most current extended-release drugs, says Intec, do not stay near the absorption site, but pass through the gastro-intestinal system, limiting their effectiveness.

The combination of drugs levodopa and carbidopa treats symptoms of Parkinson’s disease that include shaking, stiffness, and slowness of movement, caused by a lack of dopamine, a chemical found in the brain. The drugs are not a cure for the condition. Levodopa is a central nervous system agent and the active agredient in the combination that treats the symptoms by converting to dopamine in the brain.

Levodopa, however, has serious side-effects, notably nausea and vomiting. Carbidopa is a type of drug called a decarboxylase inhibitor that keeps levodopa from breaking down before it reaches the brain, and thus makes it possible to prescribe a lower dose of levodopa to reduce the adverse side effects.

Intec Pharma conducted a phase 2 trial of its accordion pill with a carbidopa/levodopa combination, but that study tested the drug for only three months. The new trial will test the safety of twice-a-day dosing of carbidopa and levodopa for a year. The drug combination is intended for use over many years.

Intec says the Michael J. Fox Foundation will deliver the award in three installments keyed to certain milestones, which the company says must be completed within the designated time period. The foundation says it seeks out partnerships with industry to speed development of drugs for Parkinson’s disease, with some $84 million awarded so far in 186 industry-led projects.

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Hat tip: MedCity News

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