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Phylogica: new drug lead targeting stroke damage

Phylogica discovers new drug lead targeting stroke to reduce brain damage

Australian biotechnology company Phylogica (www.phylogica.com)has discovered proprietary compounds that protect brain cells under conditions that simulate stroke.

"Compared to the current gold standard for preventing damage to nerve cells under these conditions, three of Phylogica's compounds were between two- and five-fold more effective," Dr Paul Watt, Phylogica’s Scientific Director, said.

Stroke is caused when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted, – usually due to a blood clot, but sometimes due to haemorrhage – depriving the surrounding tissue of oxygen. As a result, brain cells die, causing debilitation and functional impairment. While the rate of stroke is on the increase as the population ages, there is currently no effective therapy for prevention of stroke-related brain damage.

The market for stroke is predicted to reach US$5.4 billion by 2006.

In a stroke model using isolated brain cells, Phylogica found a number of its proprietary 'phylomers' were consistently able to rescue the cells from death. Should this approach work as successfully in animal and human trials, it would enable Phylogica to develop an emergency therapeutic product that could be used to limit or prevent the brain damage that would normally occur after a stroke is suffered by a patient. There is not currently any effective therapy available which can achieve this outcome.

“One of the targets that we blocked acts by switching on genes for proteins that contribute to stroke damage. Phylomers acting on this target minimise damage to the brain cells, preventing many of them from dying" Dr Paul Watt, Phylogica’s Scientific Director, said.

Phylomers are small fragments of protein that act by preventing the inappropriate interactions of proteins that cause disease – in this case, damage to brain cells and tissue.

Targeting protein interactions in stroke is an unconventional approach to drug discovery which nevertheless offers the best prospect of delivering drugs with high specificity and few side effects.

Using proprietary screening technology, Phylogica has identified from its unique drug library more than 20 phylomers with the ability to block a key pathway in neurological damage. The new stroke model further validates these blockers in that several phylomers provide extensive protection from such damage to brain cells, even an extended period.

Stewart Washer, Phylogica CEO, said: “These new results put the stroke project on track to develop a lead drug candidate with preclinical proof of concept. Such a drug would be administered as an emergency therapy to minimise the brain damage associated with a stroke event”.

ENDS

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