Fitchburg: Mithridion bags two drug research grants

Mithridion, Inc, a Fitchburg-based drug development company focusing on Alzheimer’s disease (AD), announced today that it has been awarded two research grants.

A Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant and a Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) grant will provide $296,800 in funding for drug research at the company. Mithridion will use the funds to develop new tests to evaluate its drug candidates.

The grants were awarded by the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The SBIR and STTR programs are highly competitive federal programs designed to support small business concerns to undertake research and development with commercialization potential.

Phase I projects are intended to prove feasibility. Grant applications receive rigorous scientific peer review by NIH panels drawn from leading researchers nationwide.

“We are pleased with the progress we have made towards identifying a first drug candidate based on our exciting, high potency, small molecule drug leads,” said Trevor Twose, Chief Executive of Mithridion.

“The grants will make a significant contribution by enabling us to develop new tests, utilizing advanced technologies. This will help us select drug candidates that are efficacious, safe, and that have the best likelihood of success in the clinic,” added Twose.

The SBIR project will be undertaken by Mithridion itself, while the STTR project will involve research collaboration between Mithridion and Professor Jeffrey A Johnson’s laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy, where the company’s technology was originally developed.

Mithridion aims to develop first-of-a-kind ‘disease-modifying’ drugs for AD, to slow down or halt the disease processes, in particular the degeneration and death of brain cells (neurons), thereby preserving memory, cognitive and other functions, and independent living.

No currently approved drug slows down the disease process; current drugs are palliative, affecting symptoms only. There is an enormous unmet clinical need for effective drugs.

In June 2005, Mithridion signed a license agreement with the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), the UW’s technology transfer arm, receiving worldwide exclusive rights to the technology, including the drug leads the company is now focusing on.

Mithridion began its drug development operations in laboratories at the University Research Park in Madison in February 2006, after receiving its first equity funding.

Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating, progressive and irreversible disorder. It mainly affects persons over 65 years of age, with prevalence increasing with age, though rare genetics forms of AD can strike at a much younger age.

AD causes progressive loss of memory and cognitive function, dementia, inability to function, and eventually death. The underlying problem is irreversible degeneration and death of brain cells (neurons). AD affects an estimated 4.5 million Americans, including more than 100,000 persons in Wisconsin, and 12 million people worldwide.

The number of sufferers is growing rapidly – for instance, on current estimates, the number of sufferers in Wisconsin will grow by 58% over the next 25 years. A key factor is the aging of baby boomers.