Akelos receives NIH grant to continue research on nonopioid alternative for neuropathic pain

Dr. Fox
Dr. Goldstein. Photo courtesy of Travis Curry.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health has awarded a grant to Akelos Inc. to help the biopharmaceutical company develop a nonopioid alternative for treating neuropathic pain.

The Fast-Track Small Business Technology Transfer grant will be divided into two phases. Akelos will receive nearly $700,000 for the first phase spanning two years, and if its work reaches benchmarks set by NIH, it may receive up to an additional $2.99 million for three more years.

Neuropathic pain is chronic pain caused by damage to the neurons or nerve fibers that normally transmit pain signals to the brain, resulting in them becoming hypersensitive or hyperactive. The researchers are aiming to develop a candidate therapy for peripheral neuropathic pain, which is when the damage has occurred somewhere in the body outside the brain and spinal cord.

The therapy would be based on a molecule that selectively blocks an ion channel protein called HCN1, which normally helps drive the activity of peripheral pain neurons and can become overactive in peripheral neuropathic pain.

Weill Cornell Medicine, which is collaborating with Akelos on the research, has received a subaward as part of the grant. Peter Goldstein, M.D., a professor of anesthesiology and anesthesiology in neuroscience at the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute at Weill Cornell Medicine, is the principal investigator. Dr. Goldstein, who is a scientific advisory board member of Akelos, will work with co-investigator Dianna E. Willis, Ph.D., associate director of the Burke Neurological Institute at Weill Cornell Medicine, where she is also lab director of the Laboratory for Axonal and RNA Biology.

"We are grateful for the support provided by the NIH for our research and development effort," Akelos Chairman Steven Fox, D.D.S., said. "In addition to the financial support, this grant has been reviewed by world-class neurobiologists on the NINDS Review Committee, a robust validation of our unique approach to solving the unmet challenge of treating peripheral neuropathic pain. We look forward to the opportunity represented by this [grant] funding to accelerate our path to testing a new, effective treatment for suffering patients."

Previous funding for this research has included a two-year, $1,757,406 grant from NIH in 2019.

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