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Small-Business Grants Awarded for Neurological Diseases

Nerve cells illustration

(commonfund.nih.gov)

10 November 2016. A biotechnology company spun-off last year in a pharmaceutical industry merger is receiving small business research grants to advance its technology treating neurological disorders. Aptinyx Inc. in Evanston, Illinois is receiving a total of $2.85 million in 3 awards from National Institutes of Health to evaluate experimental compounds to treat neuropathic pain and age-related cognitive decline.

Aptinyx develops treatments for neurological disorders that result from the lack of plasticity in synapses, the part of neurons, or nerve cells, that pass signals with neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain and nervous system. The company’s technology focuses on a particular set of pathways known as N-Methyl-D-aspartate, or NMDA, receptor molecules found in synapses.

NMDA receptors help keep synapses flexible, which affects memory, learning, and development of the central nervous system. Aptinyx applies its platform to discover small-molecule, or low molecular weight drugs to treat disorders such as depression, neuropathic pain, migraine, traumatic brain injury, and epilepsy.

The new Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, awards, come from different institutes in NIH:

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is supporting R&D of Aptinyx compounds to treat neuropathic pain, with initial funding of $1.25 million this year. An additional $1.09 million is recommended for the second year, depending on availability of funds and project progress.

National Cancer Institute is funding a separate neuropathic pain project, a preclinical investigation of Aptinyx’s modulators of NMDA receptors on neuropathic pain associated with chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. This type of neuropathic pain is a common side effect of many chemotherapy drugs, causing severe pain and often causing patients to discontinue chemotherapy.

– National Institute on Aging is supporting preclinical research into Aptinyx’s NMDA receptor modulators on memory loss and cognitive function in the aging brain. Age-related memory loss and cognitive decline are public health issues becoming more pronounced with increasing life expectancy and an aging population.

Aptinyx is conducted an early-stage clinical trial of its lead product code-named NYX-2925, a small-molecule modulator of NMDA receptors designed to enhance synaptic plasticity, in this case to treat neuropathic pain associated with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, a complication of diabetes. In September 2016, NYX-2925 received Fast-Track designation from the Food and Drug Administration.

The company was formed in September 2015 when drug maker Allergan plc acquired biotechnology company Naurex Inc. As reported in Science & Enterprise, Aptinyx was spun-off from Naurex to continue its work with NMDA receptors. Naurex itself 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.

“Based on years of research into the role of NMDA modulation in enhancing synaptic plasticity,” says Moskal in a company statement, “we know that our approach can have broad and diverse applications. We are eager to expand research into these indications, for which there is a clear unmet need for more effective and innovative treatment options.”

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