Novoron Bioscience, Inc., a private biotech company dedicated to developing new therapeutics for disorders of the central nervous system, today announced that the company has been awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. The NIH grant totaling $680,000 will fund preclinical studies to evaluate a novel therapeutic approach for promoting remyelination in multiple sclerosis (MS) for two years. Novoron has received six NIH grants, totaling more than $1.2 million, to test new therapeutic approaches in neurological disorders, including MS, stroke, and spinal cord injury.
"These NIH grants are invaluable in helping us advance our novel therapeutic approaches, addressing fundamental limitations in the treatment of disorders of the central nervous system such as multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and optic neuropathies," said Travis Stiles, Ph.D., President and CEO of Novoron Bioscience. "We look forward to the opportunity to continue to extend our unique technological approach to CNS disease and assess our capacity to promote remyelination and preserve neuronal viability in multiple sclerosis."
MS is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system where the immune system attacks the protective coating of nerves in the brain and spinal cord, known as myelin. This process is known as demyelination, which is irreversible in MS, and the primary cause of disability and death in this disease. Without proper myelin protection, nerves cannot efficiently transmit information, and will often die, leading to loss of critical human functions such as vision, movement, and speech. With more than 2.3 million people globally fighting the disease, MS is one of the most common diseases of the brain and spinal cord and is the most common neurological condition affecting young people.
"Today's approved therapies are aimed solely at dampening the autoimmune attack on myelin, but there are currently no approved treatments to repair damage after an attack has occurred," explained Dr. Stiles. "Our approach shows substantial promise towards repairing this damage, a process known as remyelination, which not only protects neurons from further damage, but can lead to recovery of cell function and prevention of death."
Under normal conditions, when the brain faces an insult such as trauma to the head or environmental toxicity, oligodendrocytes, the cells responsible for creating the myelin coating, can die and leave an unattended myelin sheath to degrade and fall apart. Under such circumstances, the body has a reserve of cells known as oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs), which readily infiltrate the area of damage and take the place of lost oligodendrocytes, synthesizing new myelin and repairing the damage. However, in MS, persistent myelin debris coupled with the inflammatory consequences of immune infiltration inhibits the ability of OPCs to create new myelin. This is caused by an unwanted activation of a molecule called RhoA, which is the target of Novoron's therapeutic approach.
"Rho and Rho-kinase are well considered targets for multiple sclerosis, but are difficult to effectively inhibit therapeutically in the brain. Novoron's technological foundation relies on our unique approach to targeting RhoA in a fashion that is amenable to disorders of the brain and spinal cord," concluded Dr. Stiles.
Novoron's lead compound, NOVO-117, acts on a previously unknown mediator of RhoA activation in CNS disease, LRP1 (low density lipoprotein-related protein 1). This grant will provide the necessary proof of concept to validate further pre-clinical development of NOVO-117 as an MS therapy.
The grant is supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at the NIH under Award Number R43NS092182. The content of this press release is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
About Novoron Bioscience
Novoron Bioscience, Inc. is a private biotech company developing novel therapeutic approaches to address disorders of the central nervous system. The company has made proprietary scientific discoveries in nerve regeneration and is advancing a pipeline of biologic therapeutics for spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis and glaucoma. Novoron is headquartered in San Diego and is part of the JLABS innovation community.