Cambridge, U.K.-based company Ario Pharma has picked up Italian firm PharmEste's TRPA1 antagonist research program, including a series of small molecule TRPA1 antagonists, patents, and data that Ario Pharma says greatly strengthens its own TRPA1 chemistry portfolio, including its asthma program.

The British biopharma plans to undertake a TRPA1 lead optimization project, focusing on orally available TRPA1 antagonist small molecules for treatment of asthma. The chemistry from PharmEste, according to Ario Pharma, has already demonstrated excellent in vivo efficacy in pain models.

The TRPA1 target, Ario Pharma says, has been shown to have application across inflammatory diseases including asthma, cough, COPD, and pain. TRPA1 plays an important part in the pathophysiology of asthma, and the firm believes it has the potential to address the underlying disease, effecting a change in the success of therapy by acting early in the signaling cascade of both acute and chronic symptoms of asthma.

Ario Pharma CEO John Ford said in a statement that the company plans to select one or more development candidates within the next 18 months. “We are overcoming solubility and pharmacokinetic issues associated with historical TRPA1 modulators developed by other companies, and are excited by the level of target validation of TRPA1 in respiratory, pain, and other inflammatory diseases,” he added. The company is also seeking partners for its TRPA1 program for all indications.