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Start-Up Licensing Wayne State Neurological Discoveries

Brain map illustration

(Arthur Toga, UCLA/NIH.gov)

8 February 2016. Wayne State University is licensing research discoveries from its pharmacy school to a new enterprise for development as drugs to treat depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, and other neurological disorders. Financial aspects of the agreement with Trimaran Pharma Inc. were not disclosed.

The deal covers research by pharmaceutical sciences professor Aloke Dutta on medicinal chemicals known as triple reuptake inhibitors, a class of molecules blocking proteins in the brain that act as gateways and interrupt the transport of the key neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. By blocking the proteins, called monoaminergic transporters, the flow of these three neurotransmitters is enhanced, allowing for prolonged neurotransmitter activity with therapeutic benefits.

For some people with depression, PTSD, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, and related disorders, who do not respond to conventional medications, triple reuptake inhibitors are believed to encourage remission. “All three neurotransmitters are known to play important roles in numerous neuronal processes, including mood, anxiety, stress responses, depression, cognition, attention, urinary flow, pain, impulse control and more,” says Dutta in a university statement. “Based on these roles, enhancing their transmission is thought to be a sound approach to treating abnormalities in these processes.”

Dutta’s lab at Wayne State in Detroit derives triple reuptake inhibitors from compounds known as pyrans, based on drug designs using computational models to address disorders in the central nervous system. This approach, says Dutta, allows for compounds to be optimized to address each of the three neurotransmitters. The lab also advances promising leads into preclinical stages.

Trimaran Pharma was founded in July 2015 by three pharmaceutical and biotechnology executives with experience in developing drugs for neurological disorders, including triple reuptake inhibitors. Dutta chairs the company’s scientific advisory board. The agreement with Wayne State gives Trimaran Pharma an exclusive license to develop Dutta’s discoveries.

The executives say Trimaran Pharma is a virtual company that outsources its development work, but  has a lead compound code-named D-473 with an affinity for serotonin and norepinephrine to address PTSD and depression. D-473 and two other drugs in development, says the company, are ready for toxicology studies.

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