Kineta said today it was won a $1.1 million contract from the U.S. Army toward development of its lead drug candidate CSP4, a non-opioid pain drug for wounded soldiers.

CSP4 is an analog of the conopeptide RgIA, a small protein extracted from cone snail venom. CSP4 is designed to work by inhibiting a novel, genetically validated pain target in the peripheral nervous system.

Given its mechanism of action, CSP4 is not expected to induce the chemical dependency, tolerance or life-threatening side effects associated with opioids, according to Kineta.

The company sees a market for the non-opioid pain drug beyond service members and veterans, to the estimated 116 million Americans affected by chronic pain syndromes.

“The Kineta compounds could fill a huge void in our arsenal to control chronic pain,” Ernesto Muñoz, Ph.D., director, translational immunology and preclinical development at Kineta, said in a statement. “From battlefield wounds, chronic neuropathic pain, including diabetic neuropathy to pain resulting from cancer treatments, Kineta's analgesic drug candidates could represent a highly differentiated therapeutic alternative to what is on the market today.”

“We look forward to initiating human clinical trials where we will test drug safety, tolerability, and signs of initial efficacy,” Dr. Muñoz added.

In pre-clinical studies, Kineta said, the drug candidate has shown effectiveness in alleviating several types of neuropathic pain including nerve injury, chemotherapy-induced pain as well as burn and inflammation-induced pain.

The Army award includes scientific collaborations with Michael McIntosh, M.D., and Baldomero Oliveira, Ph.D., both of the University of Utah—both credited with co-discovering the analgesic effects of RgIA—and Marcie Fowler, Ph.D., of the U.S. Army Institute for Surgical Research. Dr. Fowler will conduct key experiments exploring the potential of these drugs to treat burn-related pain and neuropathic pain resulting from nerve damage, Kineta said.

The Army contract, “Peripherally Acting, Non-Altering, Non-Addictive Pain Medicine for the War Fighter,” runs 18 months.

In addition to CSP4, Kineta’s pipeline includes its lead clinical compound, the autoimmune candidate, Dalazatide (formerly ShK-186), and several preclinical compounds plus a screening platform focused on antiviral activity.

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