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Spin-Off Formed to Develop Brain Disorder Therapies

Brain map illustration

(Arthur Toga, UCLA/NIH.gov)

16 September 2015. A new enterprise developing biologic therapies for disorders of the brain and nervous system is underway, spun-off from the acquisition in July 2015 of Naurex Inc. by the pharmaceutical company Allergan plc. The new company, Aptinyx Inc. in Evanston, Illinois will have many of the same team at Naurex, itself a spin-off enterprise from Northwestern University.

Under the acquisition, Allergan gained Naurex’s two lead therapy candidates, rapastinel being tested as a back-up drug for patients with major depressive disorder not responding to earlier antidepressants, and a more advanced product, code-named NRX-1074. Both products are in clinical trials as treatments for depression, and in the case of rapastinel, obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The deal, however, allowed Naurex to retain its technology platform and spin it off to a new enterprise, now known as Aptinyx. That platform develops therapies for diseases of the central nervous system that stimulate N-Methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, molecules found in synapses, a part of nerve cells that permit sending and receiving of signals. NMDA receptors help keep synapses flexible, which affects memory, learning, and development of the central nervous system. Aptinyx expects to use this platform to discover drugs to treat disorders such as depression, neuropathic pain, migraine, traumatic brain injury, and epilepsy.

Aptinyx plans to collaborate with Allergan on discovery and preclinical R&D of small molecule, or low molecular weight, regulators of NMDA receptors for certain neurological and psychiatric conditions. The company says Allergan will have rights to license an undisclosed number of compounds from this collaboration. Financial terms of the collaboration were not disclosed.

Naurex Inc. was a spin-off enterprise from Northwestern University, founded by Joseph Moskal, a biomedical engineering professor at Northwestern University and director of the school’s Falk Center for Molecular Therapeutics. Moskal continues as chief scientist as Aptinyx.  “Throughout my research,” says Moskal in a company statement, “I have seen that NMDA receptor modulators have great therapeutic potential in neurology and psychiatry and we confirmed this potential with the positive results that we saw with the Naurex clinical programs in depression.”

Also continuing from Naurex is Norbert Reidel who serves as as president and CEO of Aptinyx. In addition, Naurex veterans Torsten Madsen and Ashish Khanna are becoming Aptinyx’s chief medical and business officers respectively.

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