The research team led by Dr. Caty Casas, from the Institute of Neurosciences of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (INc-UAB), has created the company NeuroHeal Biomedicals to develop a new neuroprotective treatment that also accelerates the regeneration of damaged peripheral nerves.
The peripheral nerves allow us to perform all daily activities, such as walking, running, catching, hugging or feeling. There are several types of injuries that peripheral nerves can suffer due to trauma, infection, metabolic or inherited problems or exposure to toxins. For example, some injuries can happen after a violent accident, through the section of the nerves of the hand, but also by complications, such as hernias or carpal tunnel syndrome. Common symptoms include tingling, numbness and pain and, in the most severe cases, loss of sensory, motor or autonomic nervous function.
NeuroHeal, the drug proposed by the research team, is a combination of two active ingredients and has been designed to encourage neurons to conveniently activate their own endogenous mechanisms of neuroprotection and nerve regeneration; among them a fine-tuned activation of autophagy. The team innovated a platform to discover NeuroHeal based on the use of systems biology approaches and machine learning.
"Preclinical trials developed so far have shown that NeuroHeal exerts neuroprotective effect on spinal motor neurons after peripheral nerve injury and it reduces the damage-associated microgliosis involved in neuropathic pain apparition. In addition, it accelerates nerve regeneration, and reduces muscle atrophy due to denervation, improving functional recovery in animal models with peripheral nerve damage, "explains Caty Casas, project leader.
To reach these results and non-regulatory preclinical development, which demonstrate a lack of toxicity, there has been public and private financial support: from the Knowledge Industry Aid of the Agencia de la Gestió d'Ajuts Universitaris i de Recerca ( AGAUR) of the Generalitat de Catalunya, the investment of GENESIS Ventures, La Marató de TV3 and the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness.
In addition, this was the first project funded by the new GENESIS Ventures fund, and according to José Luis Falcó, CEO of this company "we are very happy to have invested in this promising project, even before it became a biotech-based company . Now we see it constituted and as the first success story of our vehicle".
The research team has already patented the new drug. Now the company's aspiration is to complete the regulatory preclinical phase and move forward to conduct clinical studies in humans. "The development of a medicine is a long road, but we hope to start phase I trials in 2022 and move forward with this new therapy," says Caty Casas.