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    You are here : Home » MS Research News » Drugs » SHK


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    Sea anemones use venomous stinging tentacles to stun their prey, but one component of that venom is being used by researchers to treat the debilitating effects of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

    Sea anemones venom possible key to Multiple Sclerosis treatment

    Sea AnemoneSea anemones use venomous stinging tentacles to stun their prey, but one component of that venom is being used by researchers to treat the debilitating effects of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

    A new class of drug treatment is about to commence clinical trials, as the result of a decade-long investigation by Professor Ray Norton, from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and his collaborators, who in the mid 1990s found a component of venom called ShK in the Caribbean sea anemone.

    The researchers found ShK blocks the Kv1.3 potassium channel located in white blood cells, known as T-cells, which are known to produce nerve damage in MS, one of the most common and debilitating diseases of the nervous system.

    Professor Norton has since collaborated with a team of scientists in the United States investigating potassium channels as targets for the development of novel immunosuppressive agents.

    With potassium channels controlling all sorts of key functions in the human body, developing a drug without unwanted side effects would have been impossible had it not turned out that the Kv1.3 potassium channel is found only on T-cells and in the nose. Because of this limited distribution, the researchers were able to develop a highly selective immune suppressant derived from the sea anemone peptide.

    Professor Norton said that by blocking the potassium channels, ShK prevented the T-cells from attacking the nervous system and causing the paralysis observed in MS patients.

    "This research shows that we may be able to effectively treat the disease while protecting the immune system," Professor Norton said.

    “Continuously blocking these T-cell channels with ShK should prevent further nerve damage, even after the initial onset of symptoms, including paralysis. If the clinical trials are successful, this could prove an effective treatment for MS.”

    Professor Norton said ShK is one of the most potent inhibitors known for these channels.

    “The next step is to find out what dose works best to treat MS and at what stage of the disease treatment should begin," Professor Norton said.

    A close relative of corals and jellyfish, sea anemones spend most of their time attached to rocks on the sea floor or on coral reefs waiting for crustaceans and small fish to pass close enough to get entangled in their venom-filled tentacles.

    Source: Health © 2012 Health (23/07/12)

    Seattle biotech Kineta wins over funding for drug development

    Kineta LogoSeattle biotech company Kineta is betting that a toxin from a Caribbean Sea anemone can stop autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

    The compound shows promise in animals. But in a tough market, where does a small startup find the kind of money and patience to support lengthy clinical trials to determine whether it works in humans?

    The heart, it turns out, is a strong motivator. Kineta's latest investor is a charitable foundation created by a famous executive who lost his wife to diabetes.

    Kineta is announcing a new partnership with the family foundation of Lee Iacocca, the former Chrysler chairman who is funding diabetes research in honor of his first wife, Mary. The Iacocca Family Foundation is investing in Kineta to spur its efforts to develop the new drug, called ShK-186.

    "They want a drug," said Shawn Iadonato, Kineta's chief scientist. "The financial consideration is secondary.

    "A venture capitalist is ultimately indifferent," he said. "They want a return on investment."

    The foundation is not releasing the amount of its investment but says the deal with Kineta is structured like a program-related investment and is less than $1 million. In 2008, the foundation made a $3 million equity investment in Silicon Valley biotech company Bayhill Therapeutics for work on type 1 diabetes. That infusion paved the way for Bayhill to attract additional matching funds.

    The partnership is an example of how foundations are recasting the model of philanthropy, investing in promising work to advance treatments, both from the commercial sector and academic research. With an equity stake, there's the potential for a double payoff if the company succeeds.

    Funding from nonprofits is unusual for a biotech company, says Kineta Chief Executive Charles Magness. But it helps Kineta build a more stable and diverse funding base.

    "We're broadening our options so we don't get stuck relying on any one funding source," Magness said.

    Founded in 2007

    Magness and Iadonato founded Kineta in 2007 after working together to develop an anti-hepatitis C drug at Illumigen Biosciences, which they later sold to Cubist Pharmaceuticals. Kineta has raised about $15 million so far, including private equity, government grants and contracts, and investments by corporate partners.

    Kineta is focusing its science on enhancing the human immune system and its business model on bridging the gap between basic research and commercialization. It's acquiring and advancing potential drugs through the pipeline, channeling new compounds that have worked well in animals through the first stage of clinical trials.

    "It's what the big companies think is very risky," Magness said. The earliest stage of clinical trials is the farthest from being able to help their bottom line, so pharmaceutical companies are less willing to do the work themselves.

    "Critical turning point"

    However, for drug development "it's a critical turning point," he said. "If it's successful, it will reduce anxiety that some toxicity will torpedo the program."

    Once the initial viability has been demonstrated, Kineta will look for a larger commercial partner to do the more advanced trials needed for FDA approval.

    Type 1 diabetes usually strikes people at a young age, and unlike type 2, it can't be managed with diet or exercise. Type 1 affects about 3 million Americans, who require injections of insulin; no new treatments have been developed for more than two decades.

    "We have all these new technologies, telecom and the Internet, but no new technologies in the disease area where people are being treated the same way they were 20 or 30 years ago," Iodonato said.

    Kineta licensed the ShK-186 technology last July from Airmid, a private pharmaceutical company, and the University of California, Irvine, based on research by UCI professor K. George Chandy. Kineta plans to take ShK-186 into the first phase of human trials later this year.

    It works by blocking some of the white blood cells that trigger inflammation in autoimmune diseases. With type 1 diabetes, the body attacks cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. In people with MS, the body attacks the myelin sheath that protects nerves.

    Narrower focus

    If ShK-186 is successful, it may have fewer side effects than existing drugs because its focus is narrower. It targets a specific kind of blood cell — effector memory T-cells — without causing general immune suppression.

    That means other immune functions can proceed as normal, allowing the body to fight viruses, infections and cancer.

    Source: The Seattle Times Copyright © 2010 The Seattle Times Company (07/06/10)

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