IAMA, PsychoGenics, Sign Second Therapy Development Agreement

Psychogenics will investigate IAMA therapies that selectively inhibit NKCC1 protein

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by Patricia Valerio |

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IAMA Therapeutics has signed a second agreement with PsychoGenics to test the effectiveness of new therapy candidates in Dravet syndrome animal models. 

The companies entered into a service agreement last year to identify the effectiveness of new drug candidates in drug-resistant epilepsy.

Under this new partnership, PsychoGenics, which provides preclinical contract research organization (CRO) services, will investigate the effectiveness of potential anti-seizure therapies developed by IAMA that selectively inhibit the cell membrane protein sodium-potassium chloride cotransporter (NKCC1).

These therapies are designed to reduce chloride concentration inside nerve cells (neurons) and restore inhibitory electrical activity.

“We will use our extensive knowledge of the seizure phenotype [an observable trait] in a preclinic model of Dravet syndrome to carefully evaluate the efficacy of these first-in-class selective-NKCC1 inhibitors,” said Stephen Morairty, PhD, PsychoGenics’ vice president of translational neurosciences, in a press release

Dravet syndrome is a rare type of epilepsy characterized by prolonged, frequent seizures that typically appear in the first year of life.

The primary goal of treatment is reducing or eliminating seizures, improving cognition, and lowering the risk of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy — or SUDEP, deaths that aren’t from injury, drowning, or other known causes. Early and effective control of seizures could improve patients’ life, according to IAMA.

NKCC1 mediates the coupled movement of chloride with potassium and sodium across the cell membrane, which has a key role in nerve cell excitability and communication. NKCC1 activity helps to maintain an ideal concentration of chloride inside cells, which is later transported out, triggering neuronal depolarization and electrical activity down a nerve fiber.

Abnormally high NKCC1 is a feature of various conditions. Therefore, inhibiting it may be a way to treat diseases marked by epileptic seizures and other neurological conditions.

“Our internal research efforts give us confidence that modulating intracellular chloride could be an effective treatment for reducing seizures in individuals affected by Dravet syndrome,” said Andrea P. Malizia, PhD, IAMA’s CEO.  “The expertise of PsychoGenics in anti-epilepsy drug testing through the electrographic [on an electroencephalogram] and behavioral identification of seizures will allow us to accelerate the efforts toward the development of a potential treatment.”