Clinical drug development and care delivery company Emyria (ASX: EMD) has entered into an agreement with the University of Western Australia (UWA) to examine and expand a unique library of proprietary MDMA-like compounds (or ‘analogues’) developed over the last 10 years.
The agreement is considered an important step in investigating the potential of MDMA analogues as psychedelic-assisted therapies for a range of mental health disorders by examining the effects of the compounds on a range of neurological targets.
The most promising compounds will be advanced through a full clinical development program.
MDMA analogues are unique chemical entities which are structurally similar to 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (more commonly known as MDMA or ecstasy) but designed to engage different neurological targets and elicit potentially unique clinical and neuro-cognitive effects.
Under the terms of the agreement, Emyria will fund a minimum of $491,000 to UWA and lead researcher Dr Matt Piggott over the next 12 months to support screening and analysis on the current series of more than 100 novel MDMA analogues as well as further novel compound synthesis to expand and broaden the library.
Dr Piggott has more than 23 years experience in sophisticated organic synthesis, medicinal chemistry, chemical biology and therapeutic drug development and is considered a world expert in the area of MDMA analogues.
Emyria will also direct a global commercial patent strategy alongside the research to ensure relevant intellectual property is protected.
At the end of the agreement, Emyria will have an option to exclusively licence the most promising compounds and their associated patent families.
Scalable delivery model
Emyria managing director Dr Michael Winlo said the UWA agreement would help work towards the development a safe and scalable delivery model for the treatment of severe neurological illnesses.
“Emerging treatments such as psychedelic-assisted therapy have great potential but require further investment and innovation into new drugs, digital technologies and care models in order to improve efficacy, safety and access for patients,” he said.
“[This agreement] adds a unique drug discovery pipeline to our existing programs, and creates an opportunity for us to lead the development of next-generation MDMA-like compounds so they can become registered treatments for patients with major psychiatric and neurological disorders.”
While there are currently limited efficacious treatment options for a number of mental health disorders, there has been recent renewed interest in the potential of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to restore function for patients.
It relies on the theory that MDMA – via prosocial effects (or behaviours that deliberately benefits others such as helping and sharing) and in conjunction with psychotherapy – can increase the ability of patients to address the underlying psycho-pathology of their disorder.
MDMA has shown considerable promise in phase III clinical trials to be a treatment for severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when administered alongside structured psychotherapy.
The analogues have also shown promise as a treatment for Parkinson’s Disease, where it may be desirable to limit or remove the euphoric and stimulant effects of MDMA.
Emyria aims to screen and expand UWA’s analogue library to identify families of patentable compounds with potential to become new treatments for conditions such as PTSD.
Dr Winlo said this would help advance the company’s work in the development of psychedelic-assisted therapies for major neurological illnesses.
“[Working with UWA] prepares us to become an Australian leader in the development of novel psychedelic-assisted therapies and it gives us the potential to identify and develop novel agents for other neurological disorders where there are large unmet needs, potentially expanding the range of disorders we can treat,” he said.
“As a data-backed clinical care provider and drug developer, we are uniquely positioned to lead the accelerated development and registration of promising new treatments as well as collect the evidence required to demonstrate adequate safety, efficacy and cost effectiveness.”