Five-year award with initial $460,000 payment is designed to advance biased G-protein coupled receptor ligands into the clinic.

Trevena won a five-year U01 cooperative agreement award from NIH to develop a novel biased ligand to the delta opioid receptor for major depressive disorder. The award was made through the NIH Blueprint Neurotherapeutics Network, which aims to develop new drugs for disorders of the central nervous system.

NIH is doling out seven such grants, and the project will be funded with $50 million over 10 years. Trevena’s project was one of seven selected for Blueprint awards, and the only project of a drug discovery company included to date in the program. The other six grant recipients include Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Columbia University, Emory University, University of California, San Diego, University of Miami and Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, as well as University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Separately, AMRI was signed on to provide drug discovery services and technologies.

The Trevena award includes $460,000 in direct funding and access to contracted research services. Trevena estimates that the award could be worth $10 million if the project progresses the full five years as planned. Investigators will retain intellectual property rights for any drugs they develop through the Blueprint Network.

Blueprint will fund activities of the seven grant recipients and leverage resources within the agency’s 15 institutes and centers. It will involve work by consultants and contractors to complete hit identification, lead optimization, IND-enabling studies, and Phase I development for a delta opioid receptor biased ligand to treat depression.

The objective is to advance into early clinical development G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) ligands biased toward activating one key receptor signaling pathway while blocking another. Biased ligands provide an enhanced level of drug specificity, which according to Trevena allows enhanced efficacy or decreased side effects to be designed into a drug candidate. Funding will be reviewed annually and awarded based on successful completion of preset milestones.

The Blueprint award is Trevena’s third from NIH in the past three years. In 2009, the company won a $7.65 million Grand Opportunities grant by the NIH Office of the Director to apply high-throughput screening technologies to the search for biased ligands across a set of GPCR targets. And last year, Trevena won a fast track Molecular Libraries high-throughput screening award for biased ligands at the MC4 receptor.

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