Autifony Therapeutics Limited has announced a collaboration with research groups at the University of Manchester and Newcastle University to develop a novel, first-in-class Kv3 potassium channel modulator for the treatment of schizophrenia.
The £2.75 million research collaboration is part-funded by the award of a £1.9 million grant to Autifony and the two Universities, by the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board.
The award follows a successful funding application to the Biomedical Catalyst, jointly funded by the Technology Strategy Board and the Medical Research Council.
Autifony’s lead programme is developing first-in-class Kv3 potassium channel modulators for hearing loss and tinnitus. This new collaboration aims to develop pharmaceutical compounds against the same target but with profiles differentiated and distinct from its hearing programme.
Autifony and its collaborators will explore the modulation of this novel voltage gated potassium channel mechanism as a potential new therapy for schizophrenia.
A serious psychiatric illness that has seen diminishing investment in research in recent years, schizophrenia remains an area of high unmet medical need, with existing schizophrenia treatments demonstrating poor efficacy for many patients as well as causing considerable side effects.
The condition imposes a huge social and economic burden.
The funding award will be used to enable selection of a compound from a group of potential candidates and then progression of the chosen compound through preclinical development up to a CTA/IND submission.
Autifony is working closely with leading academic collaborators, Professors Neill, Williams and Deakin at the University of Manchester, and Drs Cunningham and LeBeau at Newcastle University, whose pioneering models of schizophrenia will give further validation of the target and insight into the disease pathology.
Dr Charles Large, Chief Scientific Officer of Autifony, commented: “The opportunity provided by this grant to work on a new approach to schizophrenia, for which novel and more effective treatments are urgently needed, is hugely exciting. The ion channels that we are targeting in our hearing loss programme are closely implicated in brain circuits which are believed to be dysfunctional in schizophrenia. Working with academic collaborators renowned in their respective fields will bring the latest techniques and thinking to bear on this important health challenge.”