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Spin-Off Company Developing Cardiac Drug Tests

Helen Maddock

Helen Maddock (InoCardia)

22 July 2014. A medical researcher at Coventry University in the U.K. is spinning-off a new company to commercialize her research on cardiac drug toxicity for screening new therapies for dangerous side effects before testing on patients. Helen Maddock, a lecturer in cardiovascular physiology and pharmacology, is starting InoCardia to provide this service to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

Maddock’s research investigates biomarkers of malfunctioning heart muscles that offer early indicators of cardiac disorders, such as heart failure. A study by Maddock and Coventry colleague Hardip Sandhu, published earlier this year in the journal Clinical Science, discusses identification of micro-RNAs — molecules of genetic material based on a person’s DNA that regulate genes’ expression of proteins in the body — as biomarkers to detect potential cardiac injuries before irreversible damage occurs.

One application of these findings is to identify potential adverse effects of drugs on patients. InoCardia plans to provide tests using a sample of a patient’s own heart muscle to evaluate the safety of new drugs. The tests use a work-loop technique that simulates mechanical work and power output of muscle contractions, in this case heart muscle contractions, in the lab.

The tests are performed with heart tissue samples submitted to an electrical current that contracts the muscle while exposed to the treatment, with results indicating if the new drug affects the human heart muscle’s contractions. Conducting these tests in the lab, makes it possible for pharma and biotech companies to catch adverse effects before conducting expensive clinical trials, or even preclinical studies with lab animals.

InoCardia already received early venture funding from Mercia Fund Management, providing £250,000 ($US 399,000) in equity capital. The company also recruited pharma and biotech industry veterans to its management team. Maddock serves as the InoCardia’s chief scientist.

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