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Biotech, Academic Labs Partner on Ultrasound Brain Therapy

Brain circuits


7 Dec. 2023. A developer of treatments for brain disorders and researchers at Stanford University aim to harness ultrasound to deliver drugs in nanoscale particles to precise regions of the brain. The collaboration brings together Cordance Medical in Mountain View, California with radiologist Raag Airan and neuroscientst Nolan Williams, members of the Stanford Medicine faculty.

Cordance Medical is a five year-old biotechnology company creating non-invasive devices for diagnosing and treating brain diseases. The company’s technology uses ultrasound to help drug treatments cross the blood-brain barrier, a collection of tightly packed cells lining blood vessels in the brain preventing foreign substances from entering the brain. Those foreign substances include most drugs, making it more difficult to treat brain disorders, including cancer and neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease. The blood-brain barrier also limits cells from brain tumors from entering the general blood stream, preventing the growing use of liquid biopsy blood tests to detect brain cancers.

Cordance Medical devices use ultrasound, a form of targeted sound waves, focused on precise areas of the brain to gently stretch blood vessels in those regions, allowing drugs to pass in or circulating tumor cells to pass out. Low-frequency ultrasound waves, says the company, create micro-scale bubbles that vibrate in the blood stream expanding blood vessels to allow drug molecules or circulating tumor cells to pass through. Patients wear a Cordance helmet-like headgear that concentrates the ultrasound waves on regions of the brain previously identified through MRI or CT scans. In October 2023, the company’s NeuroAccess device to enable liquid biopsies received a Breakthrough Device designation from the Food and Drug Administration.

Delivery with ultrasound to cerebrospinal fluid

In the collaboration with Stanford medical school, Cordance Medical is joining with researchers Raag Airan and Nolan Williams to study targeted drug delivery with nanoscale drug particles activated by ultrasound. Airan’s lab investigates precise drug delivery to the brain with both drug nanoparticles and ultrasound, with research published last year demonstrating the group’s techniques in lab rats delivering drugs to cerebrospinal fluid with ultrasound. Williams is part of Stanford’s Brain Stimulation Lab that studies neurostimulation as a psycho-pharmalogical process for treating neurological and psychiatric disorders.

The collaboration with the Stanford neuroscientists seeks to adapt Cordance Medical’s NeuroAcess device for releasing drug-loaded nanoparticles with ultrasound in precisely targeted brain locations. The company says this “uncaging” capability goes beyond the technology’s original blood-brain barrier objectives, to treat a range of neurological and psychiatric disorders, while minimizing adverse effects.

Ryan Dittamore, CEO of Cordance Medical, says in a company statement that the agreement is “a critical step forward in the field of precision neuropsychiatry.” Dittamore adds, “Our NeuroAccess platform, when paired with Dr. Airan’s novel nanoparticles, has the potential to revolutionize patient care by providing more precise control of neural activity.” The agreement, says the company, includes a first-in-human clinical trial in patients with chronic pain, testing a nanoparticle formulation of the drug ketamine.

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