The National Institutes of Health has just awarded a new Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant jointly to a small West Virginia-based business ExesaLibero Pharma and WVU, as its primary academic partner. This grant is awarded in two separate phases, Phase 1 is for six months and after satisfying specified milestones, Phase 2 is awarded for an additional two years. These grants are awarded to the small business company that then subcontracts with WVU and other entities to conduct portions of the research work.
The company’s principal investigator is John B Barnett, Ph.D., and the principal investigator for WVU is Werner Geldenhuys, Ph.D. Dr. Barnett is also Professor and Chair of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Cell Biology in the WVU School of Medicine and Dr. Geldenhuys is an Associate Professor in the WVU School of Pharmacy.
ExesaLibero and WVU are working on a new approach to treating acute arthritis based on a common pathway in the cells that damage bones and joints. Inflammatory arthritis disables thousands of people each year. It occurs in children and adults, after trauma and infections but the cause of most cases is unknown. Millions of adults live with chronic rheumatoid arthritis, which has similar features. Inflammatory arthritis often requires treatments with serious side effects. Later in arthritis, bone erosion is a major problem that causes severe pain and debilitation. There is no small molecule drug available to specifically treat arthritic bone erosion. We have a small molecule drug that suppresses the development and activity of the specific bone cells that are responsible for bone erosion. Preliminary testing shows that this drug suppressed bone erosion associated with arthritis in mice, even after symptoms of arthritis were measureable, without major adverse effects.
During the course of this grant period, ExesaLibero and WVU will perform comprehensive preclinical pharmacology and toxicology testing in addition to experiments on the mechanism of action of the drug. The development of this drug for treatment of bone erosion promises to prevent the life changing debilitation associated with RA, effectively with low toxicity.