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New Venture Formed to Discover Neuro Therapies

Brain hemispheres graphic


19 Mar. 2020. Two drug discovery companies are forming a joint venture to discover treatments for neurological conditions based on cannabinoid-like compounds. Cyclica Inc. and NeuroTheryX Canada Ltd., both in Toronto, Ontario, are creating NineteenGale Therapeutics, an enterprise to advance treatments that work like cannabinoids derived from cannabis plants, for mental health and neuropsychiatric disorders.

Therapies derived from the Cannabis sativa plant, also called marijuana, are attracting more interest from biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. The National Library of Medicine in the U.S. says some 80 chemicals, known as cannabinoids, are associated with these plants. One of those chemicals, cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating derivative, makes up about 40 percent of cannabis extracts and has been studied extensively for a range of disorders. In June 2018, the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. approved Epidiolex, a cannabidiol formulation to treat two severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

NeuroTheryX discovers and develops therapies for central nervous system diseases. The company says its process screens for drugs based on a whole-organism technology focusing on a treatment candidate’s mechanisms of action. Once therapy targets are identified, the NeuroTheryX platform then designs and tests new chemical entity analogs.

Cyclica employs computational biology and biophysics for drug discovery to assess the total effects of proposed treatments on the body, not just the prime targets. The company’s Ligand Design service starts with what the company calls seed molecules, then designs more complex molecules with artificial intelligence to achieve specific chemical interactions in the body, as well as reflect desired ADMET — for absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, and toxicity — properties.

The companies say they already collaborated on a project to find protein targets for a NeuroTheryX treatment candidate for a neurodegenerative disorder. Cyclica’s Ligand Express service helped identify one particular target among the company’s top-ranked proteins that was previously not known to NeuroTheryX. In further work, NeuroTheryX validated the hit in lab cultures and animal tests. Ligand Express is a cloud-based service that screens small molecule compounds against a large simulated protein repository with artificial intelligence routines to visualize and predict multiple interactions in the body.

NineteenGale Therapeutics is expected to identify and develop new cannabinoid-analog drugs for bipolar disorder, anxiety, and pain management. Armen Manoukian, chief scientist at NeuroTheryX, says in a Cyclica statement, “The A.I.-driven generation of superior new chemical entity variants of cannabinoids generated by NineteenGale will have wide-reaching implications for patients suffering from a multitude of mental health disorders, delivering innovative and novel potential therapeutics.”

“Mental health disorders continue to be a big challenge for both patients and drug researchers, due to the complexity of the underlying biology and diversity of disease phenotypes,” adds Naheed Kurji, CEO of Cyclica. “By leveraging our previously prospective success with NeuroTheryX and now forming NineteenGale, we believe together we can create a wave of new cannabinoid-based medicines to create a meaningful impact in the lives of patients.”

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