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Thread: Licensing deal for chronic pain

  1. #1
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    Licensing deal for chronic pain

    Licensing deal for chronic pain
    Biotech firm paying CU to help find new way to treat sufferers

    By Rachel Brand, Rocky Mountain News
    December 10, 2003

    A California biotech company is paying Colorado researchers hundreds of thousands of dollars to help find a new way to treat chronic pain.

    Alameda, Calif.-based Avigen Inc. announced Monday it is licensing research from University of Colorado professor Linda Watkins to develop a protein-based therapy for debilitating pain.


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    Avigen declined to reveal exact figures for the licensing agreement. But Ken Porter, CU's director of technology transfer, estimated the arrangement brings hundreds of thousands of dollars in licensing and sponsorship revenue to the university. Should it result in a drug, CU would receive a small percentage of the product's profits.

    The deal also puts CU on track to triple its number of commercial licensing deals this fiscal year to 38, Porter said.

    Watkins' research on rats shows that glial cells, the relay stations between neurons, play a previously understated role in how pain information is transmitted to the brain.

    If successful, her research could lead to therapies that end the nightmare experienced by nerve-damaged patients, who now have little recourse to end their 24-hour-a-day pain. The company expects to begin human clinical trials in 18 months.

    Avigen estimates as many as 500,000 people in North America and Europe - cancer and spinal cord injury patients among them - could benefit from these therapies.

    "It's a whole new approach to chronic pain," said Watkins. "The rats are telling us it's a fabulous approach."

    Said Avigen President Dr. John Monahan, "Currently, almost nothing works for (these patients)."

    Ten years ago Watkins began looking at glia by asking the question, "How does your brain know you are sick?"

    When you have the flu, your cells tell your brain to be overly responsive to pain as a survival tactic. As a result, even the bedsheets feel bad.

    Turns out, this message comes from your glia, the intersections between neurons, she said. Glia communicate with the brain by putting out proteins that stimulate neurons.

    "The glia are where the neurons talk to each other," said Watkins. "It's kind of like the crowd surrounding boxers in a ring. The boxers (neurons) are doing their thing, but it's the audience (glia) that gets them all hot and bothered."

    Later research showed that nerve damage taps into this ancient pain- communication system, but the glia are always turned on. The solution: dose them with anti-inflammatory cytokines, a type of gene therapy.

    "Think of it as Valium for glia," said Watkins. "It's not Valium, but it has the same kind of calming influence. It chills them out."

    Watkins has been collaborating with Avigen for a year, although the licensing deal marks a tangible step toward commercialization. It involves funding further research at the university's Center for Neuroscience Research.

    Avigen is in Phase I clinical trials for a hemophilia drug. It also has a number of pre-clinical and research programs into the treatment of metabolic diseases, Parkinson's disease and congestive heart failure.



    brandr@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-892-5269. Listen to Rachel Brand on "The State of Colorado" at 8 a.m. Friday on KNRC-AM (1150).


    Copyright 2003, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.
    http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drm...491287,00.html

  2. #2
    Thanks for posting this. It is Happy Holidays for those of us with Central Pain. Avigen is giving us a gift of Dr. Watkins research. From the article it sounds like Dr. Watkins may be researching glial cell derived growth factor. These growth factors are produced in the developing fetus and also if there is cell injury. I may be wrong but it is my understanding that they prevent certain types of stem cell injection and must be suppressed for the "transplant" to take. There are good reviews at painonline.com of Bryan Hains article where he found that growth factors probably are responsible for the explosion of the number of Nav1.3 sodium ion channels, which never occur in adults, only fetuses and infants, in the dorsal horn of lab animals with Central Pain. The sodium ion channel allows charged sodium to pour across the nerve cell membrane, creating an ionic current which perpetuates neuron firing. This field is ripe for more research and we are so grateful Avigen is funding the research. Personally, I plan to write them a letter of thanks for their hundreds of thousands of dollars. Of course, with the four hundred billion approved for Medicare drugs, it seems like maybe the US Govt could pitch in a little bit too. Bill Clinton used to say, "I feel your pain". When it comes to Central Pain, I am not so sure if the government feels our pain. So I plan to write my senators and ask them to fund NIH for more pain research. The PhD's who do it do not get jobs, so one by one I see them simply dropping out and going to med school where they can make a living. This is a terrible loss to us, but who can blame them. Pain activism is a good thing. Unfortunately it has to be done by people who are too sick to do ANYTHING. So thanks again to Avigen and for the post.

  3. #3
    What Dejerine said!

    This is really exciting! I saw an article interviewing Linda Watkins in a fibromyalgia newsletter, and I thought at the time "Wow! This sounds like it could help us!". I've been wondering what was happening with it.

    Did I read where it said human trials in 18 months? Doesn't that sound too soon to be true?

    Calico

  4. #4
    OK, let's all write Avigen!

    Glenn Pierce, Ph.D., M.D.
    VP, Research and Clinical Development
    gpierce@avigen.com

    John Monahan, Ph.D.
    President & CEO
    monahan@avigen.com

    Snail Mail:

    Avigen, Inc.
    1301 Harbor Bay Parkway
    Alameda, Ca. 94502

    Come on guys! Let's give 'em some inspiration!

    Calico

  5. #5
    see Neuropathic Painforum for latest articles on treatments for neuropathic pain associated with spinal cord injury. Wise.

  6. #6
    Linda Watkins, Ph.D. has a new review article in "Nature Reviews Drug Discovery" focusing on the potential of targeting glia to control pain like ours.

    Her group is just beginning to study human spinal cord tissues from patients with spinal cord damage to see whether they find evidence of glial activation and proinflammatory cytokine production. She believes if they do that it will be a strong argument to drug companies to develop such drugs to target our pain.

    Maybe some happier New Years are around the corner ?!?!?

    Here's hoping,

    Calico

  7. #7
    Don't forget to send your letters to Avigen! See addresses below.

    Thank you for advocating for everybody here!

    Calico

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