Neurasic Therapeutics is a Canada-based research company building on the research of Philippe Séguéla, neuroscience professor at McGill University. Partners include adMare BioInnovations, a life-sciences venture, McGill and early-stage venture capital fund AmorChem II Fund lp.
According to the company, Neurasic's potential drug therapy targets acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs), a gene family of neuronal receptors activated by protons which play a role in multiple neurological disorders.
Initial-stage research has shown that blocking ASICs elicits analgesia (the inability to feel pain) in chronic pain conditions. This reportedly eliminates the need for opiate-based drugs, and the addiction challenges associated with such drugs.
Youssef Bennani, chief science officer with adMare, told Outsourcing-Pharma that opioids could endanger a patient when taken over an extended period.
“The global opioid crisis stems from the fact that when opioids work, they can create opioid-induced addiction,” he said. “A patient takes them, they build tolerance, and their systems require more and more—and once they increase the dose, they start touching upon the threshold of safety.”
Bennani added that patients don’t necessarily realize the danger—they increase the number of pills they take when the recommended dose does not do the job, they can become dependent, and the concentration of the drug could cause adverse effects. The pain therapies Neurasic is working on, he said, could replace some or part of the number of opioids prescribed to reduce the risk.
“Anything that can reduce or replace opioids, you’ve got a winner,” he said.
Guy Rouleau, CEO of the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, added, “This drug development program paves the way towards innovative strategies to reverse the opioid crisis impacting Canadians countrywide.”
adMare president and CEO Gordon McCauley said the research stands to benefit a number of patients.
"This drug development program is an excellent example of academic research that has the potential to provide the best-in-class treatments that patients need,” he said. "We are excited to maximize the potential of Dr. Séguéla's discoveries on ASICs, along with the return on public investment in research."
Maxime Ranger, general partner with AmorChem and president of Neurasic, said Séguéla's research into pain therapies and opioid alternatives holds promise.
“The validation provided by the collaboration with adMare was an important factor in our decision to invest in this platform. We believe that Neurasic will benefit greatly from our three groups' combined expertise in early-stage investing and preclinical development in this field," Ranger said.