Aurora company licenses CU technology for brain disease treatment

By Staff

The University of Colorado and Aurora-based ICVrx recently completed a license agreement allowing the company to commercialize CU technology for improved treatment of epilepsy and other neurological disorders.

Many of the most effective oral medicines for neurological diseases are toxic to the body; although these medicines are nontoxic to the brain, getting the drug into the central nervous system without causing dangerous side effects in the body is a challenge. What's more, many patients with neurological disorders do not adhere to the prescribed dosing regimen; this is especially relevant in patients with mental illnesses like schizophrenia.

The licensed technology is a drug reformulation technique that allows these drugs to be administered directly into the fluid around the brain via an implantable pump. This technique enables significantly lower dosages (reducing side effects and toxicity) and also can help overcome patient compliance problems.

The technology was developed by Daniel J. Abrams and Karen Stevens, both of the CU School of Medicine department of psychiatry, and Thomas Anchordoquy of the department of pharmaceutical sciences.

ICVrx was founded in 2009 to commercialize this technology; the company is currently focusing on treatment of "refractory epilepsy" – epilepsy that has proven difficult or impossible to control using standard drug treatments. For this group of patients (600,000 in the U.S.), driving and other essential daily activities might be impossible due to uncontrolled or poorly controlled seizures.

"Although these patients may appear to their neighbors to be normal, they have a very poor quality of life and high need," said Abrams, who also is ICVrx's CEO. "Currently there are only two treatment options – brain surgery to remove part of the brain, or an implanted device called a Vagus Nerve Stimulator, which has risks, is irreversible and has limited effectiveness. Only 10 percent of patients pursue either."

The company has completed preclinical work on three potential drug therapies in preparation for clinical trials, which it hopes to begin in 2011.

"The ICVrx technology would address an important and unmet therapeutic need for the target patient populations, and we wish the company every success in bringing this to market," said Tom Smerdon, director of licensing and new business development at the CU Technology Transfer Office.