Domainex will expand its two-year-old collaboration with Imperial College London to discover new therapies that reduce heart muscle damage during heart attacks, the partners said today.

Domainex and Imperial aim to discover a treatment that inhibits the enzyme MAP4K4, which is linked to cell death following heart attacks. Since the collaboration was launched in 2015, the partners said, they have discovered novel, potent, and selective MAP4K4 inhibitors using human cardiac muscle grown from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).

The inhibitors have shown promise in protecting these cells against oxidative stress, a trigger for cell death during heart attacks, Domainex and Imperial said.

As a result of the progress, Imperial College London said, its Professor Michael Schneider, Ph.D., has secured a follow-on award of £4.5 million (nearly $5.8 million) from the Wellcome Trust’s Seeding Drug Discovery initiative to continue the research.

From its Medicines Research Centre near Cambridge, U.K., Domainex said, its researchers will continue to provide integrated drug discovery services—including further biochemical, cellular and biophysical assay screening, and structure-guided medicinal chemistry coupled with drug metabolism, safety, and pharmacokinetic assessment of promising candidates.

Domainex and Imperial said they aim to advance potential treatments into preclinical development and ultimately to clinical evaluation.

“We have already identified a number of very exciting, novel inhibitors through structure-based drug design,” Domainex CSO Trevor Perrior said in a statement. “The innovative cardiac muscle assay developed by the team here at Domainex working in partnership with Imperial College London, is enabling early testing on human cardiac muscle cells, which will make cardiac drug discovery more efficient and effective in identifying efficacious candidate drugs.”

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