Optivia Biotechnology has received a $1.8 million SBIR grant to advance the understanding of central nervous system (CNS) physiology and create novel tools to help design new CNS drugs, identify new drug targets, expand drug indications, and manage potential drug side effects.

The two-year grant from the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health will fund development of a broad set of transporter assays and a large prescription drug database to better understand the interaction between drugs and key physiologically important transporters found throughout the CNS.

“The first aim of this research project is to develop assays for about 30 human CNS drug transporters, resulting in the most comprehensive collection of cell-based CNS transporter assays commercially available to academic and pharmaceutical researchers,” said Dominique Bridon, Ph.D., CSO. “These new assays will remove a critical bottleneck in the study of CNS transporters and the development of drugs for important CNS diseases such as depression, schizophrenia, and epilepsy, as well as Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s diseases.”

The second aim of the research is to profile the interactions of at least 350 CNS prescription drugs with more than 20 CNS transporters, creating a database that could reveal previously unforeseen relationships between the pharmacological properties of drugs and their clinical outcomes, the company said.

“This grant will enable us to build on our successful phase 1 studies to provide innovative tools for understanding the effects—both positive and negative—of inhibiting critical transporters in the CNS, yielding information that could lead to the development of more effective drugs with manageable side effects,” said Yong Huang, Ph.D., president and CEO.

In April 2011, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences awarded Optivia $1.85 million SBIR grant to develop a broad set of assays and database to identify the most clinically significant drug-drug interactions that involve membrane transporters.

Transporters are a class of 300 to 400 membrane proteins that act as nature’s “gatekeepers,” facilitating the movement of drugs and other substances into and out of cells, playing a vital role in drug response and safety, according to Optivia.

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