A startup company rooted in the efforts of researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina to find new anti-seizure drugs secured a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant for $225,000.
The company, Neuroene Therapeutics, was born from unique research by two MUSC investigators who secured the grant in July from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
Neuroene Therapeutics is using the grant to help further develop a novel class of compounds for treating epilepsy. In the U.S. alone, epilepsy’s estimated direct and indirect costs total $15.5 billion, according to the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences.
“This class of compounds has a new molecular mechanism that makes it different from any of the current anti-seizure drugs available to patients with epilepsy,” said Neuroene Therapeutics Chief Operating Officer and co-founder Sherine Chan, Ph.D., MUSC associate professor of drug discovery and biomedical sciences.
“An estimated 30 to 40 percent of epilepsy patients do not have sufficient control of their seizures with current treatments. We intend to provide a new generation of anti-seizure drugs that is clearly needed.”
Launched in May 2015, Neuroene Therapeutics is based on Chan’s collaborative research with James Chou, Ph.D., MUSC associate professor of drug discovery and biomedical sciences. Chou is also a Neuroene Therapeutics co-founder and serves as chief executive officer. Their focus is on vitamin K analogs, not only for epilepsy but also other difficult to treat neurological disorders.
Studies at MUSC and NINDS reveal that these compounds produce fewer side effects than current treatments, as vitamin K is a safe macronutrient essential for health and function of the central nervous system.
The MUSC Foundation for Research Development (FRD) assisted Chan and Chou in establishing the startup company and also guided them through the STTR application as well as other grant opportunities.
The S.C. Research Authority has awarded a separate $50,000 grant to Neuroene Therapeutics, as announced earlier this summer.
“It’s exciting for us to see funding opportunities open up for Neuroene Therapeutics’ leaders as they develop better alternatives for treating epilepsy and other neurological disorders that disrupt the lives of so many people,” said FRD Executive Director Michael Rusnak.
As the university’s technology transfer office, FRD manages intellectual property based on MUSC research and finds corporate partners to translate technology into products. In fall 2014, FRD launched a program to assist the MUSC startup community with STTR and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant applications. As a result, STTR and SBIR grant applications to advance MUSC intellectual property tripled from an average of five annually to 15 in fiscal year 2015, followed by 16 applications in fiscal year 2016.
Those efforts have resulted in notable successes this year, including Neuroene Therapeutics’ STTR grant as well as a $211,000 Phase I STTR grant awarded this spring to CuRE Innovations, LLC, a dental materials startup company based on inventions by MUSC faculty.