(CN) - A company said to be working on a "concussion pill" will likely be granted exclusive use of a patent on brain recovery, the National Institutes of Health announced Thursday.
Sports-related concussion concerns are in the news and in the courts, as sports figures all the way down to little leaguers, and doctors and scientists have begun to notice there can be after effects, such as degenerative disease.
Dr. James Lechleiter, Professor of Cellular and Structural Biology at the University of Texas, discovered the drug's mechanism when he was trying to design a drug to kill cancer cells. The method instead increased the cells' ability to survive--an effect that he quickly realized could be very helpful in the case of brain injury, high-tech magazine Xconomy reported.
Dr. Lechleiter teamed up with Dr. William Korinek, formerly Pfizer's vice president of Worldwide R&D Business Operations, to create Astrocyte Pharmaceuticals Inc. in 2014, to develop therapies for treating damage from concussions, traumatic brain injuries, strokes and degenerative diseases, according to the company's website.
The so-called "concussion pill" would stimulate the brain's caretaker cells, called astrocytes, to jump into action to bring the brain to as close to a normal state as possible after the brain is injured, such as in the case of a concussion, according to the company's website.
Astrocytes are a mesh of leggy cells in the brain that have connections to the processes that keep the brain's neurons alive and functioning well, according to studies.
Instead of trying to help neurons directly, as has historically been researchers' focus, this drug would affect the neuron's support system, the company's website states.
Once a neuron dies, it is not replaced, so energizing the astrocytes just after injury triggers healing, reducing additional cell death that can occur with swelling and other results of injury.
The drug could be given by a medical professional on the sidelines of a game just after injury, or in an ambulance or emergency room.
After clinical trials and the Federal Drug Administration review process, it may not be on the market for at least five to 10 years, the company website stated.
"While our data has been promising, there is still a substantial amount of research that needs to be done before advancing to clinical trials in people. Neuroscience is a very challenging area with significant scientific and business risk, and many many discovery programs have unfortunately failed to translate to efficacious medicines. Hopefully, our research progresses and is positive, and we're on the path to developing a therapeutic that can help the millions of concussion and brain injury patients," Korinek told Courthouse News.
The patent license can be finalized if the agency has not received competing applications or objections by Oct. 20. No information on whether competing documents have come in or are anticipated has been forthcoming. Attempts to reach the agency's Office of Technology were not returned by press time.
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