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NIH Funds Heart Tissue Regeneration Tests in Pigs

Kevin Strange and Voot Yin

Kevin Strange, left, and Voot Yin are inventors of MSI-1436 (MDI Biological Laboratory)

8 September 2017. An experimental drug to help grow new heart tissue after a heart attack is advancing to tests in pigs, with help from National Institutes of Health. Novo Biosciences Inc., developer of the drug, was awarded a two-year, $1.5 million Small Business Innovation Research grant from National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of NIH.

Novo Biosciences is a spin-off company from MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, founded in 2013 by lab scientists Kevin Strange and Viravuth (Voot) Yin, now the company’s CEO and chief scientist respectively. The company’s drug, code-named MSI-1436, is derived from a naturally occurring compound that inhibits a protein known as tyrosine phosphatase 1B. This protein inactivates an enzyme that regulates innate tissue repair and regeneration.

The drug, in this case, is designed to stimulate heart muscle cells called cardiomyocytes that repair heart tissue damage from heart attacks. That damage is often replaced by scar tissue, which prevents the heart from beating in its normal rhythm. In tests with lab mice induced with damage similar to a heart attack, recipients of MSI-1436 reduced the amount of scar tissue, improved heart function, reduced the thinning of heart walls, increased production of cardiomyocytes, and increased survival times. The company says MSI-1436 was also well-tolerated in early-stage clinical trials of its safety in patients with type 2 diabetes and obesity.

As reported in Science & Enterprise, MDI Biological Laboratory received a patent on the technology to treat heart disease in August 2016. The patent is shared with Michael Zasloff of the MedStar-Georgetown Transplant Institute at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

The drug still needs to be tested in animals with hearts more like humans, thus the tests with pigs, whose hearts are similar in size and function. Novo Biosciences proposes measuring effects of the drug on restoring heart functions with echocardiograms that provide images of the heart with ultrasound. The tests with pigs will be structured much like clinical trials, where the animals will be randomly assigned to receive either MSI-1436 or a placebo, and the lab researchers not aware if they are administering the test drug or the placebo. A cardiovascular team at Louisiana State University in New Orleans will conduct the tests.

“If the pig study is successful, Novo Biosciences will seek investors to move the potential drug through the multi-stage clinical trial process,” says Yin in an MDI statement. “If MSI-1436 shows results in humans that are anything like what we have demonstrated in mice, it will be a game-changer for patients who have suffered a heart attack.”

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