Grant will support preclinical development of pH-sensitive NR2B-specific candidate for prophylactic use in SAH patients.

NeurOp won a four-year, $3 million NIH grant to support development of a lead ischemia therapy candidate to IND filing for the prophylactic treatment of subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) in patients at risk of stroke. The firm is focused on the development of NR2B-specific NMDA receptor antagonists for the treatment of CNS disorders including depression, neuropaothic pain, ischemia, schizophrenia, and Parkinson disease.

The SAH program is focused on developing pH-sensitive NMDA receptor agonists that are more potent at the acid pH within ischemic brain tissue, and so could provide what NeurOp claims is “on demand” neuroprotection in the event of ischemia, while minimizing effects in healthy tissue and therefore side-effects.

“Our compounds target only the areas of the brain affected by an ischemic event, so they may preserve brain function and retain more motor, speech, and cognitive function in the event of a stroke, as well as speed recovery,” comments Barney Koszalka, Ph.D., president and CEO.

NeurOp initially aims to study its lead pH-sensitive NMDA receptor antagonist for prophylactic use in patients who have suffered SAH. The firm says that about 50% of SAH patients suffer a stroke-like event within 14 days after undergoing surgery to correct the aneurysm. The aim would thus be to start drug administration immediately after surgery and then maintain therapy through the critical period to improve survival and outcome should a stroke occur.

NeurOp’s NR3B program also includes lead optimization-stage candidates targeting neuropathic pain, and for the treatment of major depression in patients who are resistant to standard SSRI therapy. Both these programs are being carried out in collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) as part of a drug discovery deal signed in 2010. Under terms of the agreement, NeurOp received an up-front fee of $1.5 million from BMS and could be eligible for another $74 million in milestone payments for the successful development of a compound against major depression.

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