Drug developer NeuroScientific Biopharmaceuticals (ASX: NSB) has revealed the first pre-clinical results of an ophthalmology program that has demonstrated the potential for its lead drug candidate EmtinB to become a “revolutionary” treatment for glaucoma.
EmtinB is a novel therapeutic peptide developed by NeuroScientific that is most advanced as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
In July, the company published results of a “breakthrough study” that showed the drug’s potential to become a “disease-modifying therapy” for Alzheimer’s due to its ability to stimulate the reformation of neuronal network and restore function of injured nerve cells.
EmtinB is modelled on metallothionein, a neuroprotective protein produced as part of the innate immune system and which is considered a powerful promoter of axonal regeneration of the completely severed mature optic nerve in rat models.
According to NeuroScientific, new data from its pre-clinical glaucoma program, conducted by researchers at the Lions Eye Institute, showed EmtinB could penetrate the retina and optic nerve of the eye in rabbit models with no side effects.
NeuroScientific chairman Brian Leedman said this data from the first set of experiments in the company’s ophthalmology (the study of eye disorders) program demonstrated “enormous potential of a topical eye drop disease-modifying therapy for glaucoma patients”.
Potential to reverse eye damage
The eye condition glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain.
According to NeuroScientific, it is one of the world’s leading causes of blindness, affecting more than 60 million people globally including about 300,000 Australians. The disease has no known cure and vision loss is irreversible.
Current treatment options can help reduce intraocular pressure and slow down disease progression, but cannot reverse vision loss.
Due to EmtinB’s capacity to promote optic nerve regeneration, NeuroScientific believes it could be the first available disease-modifying treatment of glaucoma.
“The potential for reversing the glaucoma-induced damage to the optic nerve is being heralded as a major potential health breakthrough by ophthalmologists,” the company stated.
According to NeuroScientific, the ophthalmic market is valued at around $25 billion per annum and is forecast to grow to $5.3 billion per annum worldwide during the next three years.
Next steps in the program
The next part of NeuroScientific’s pre-clinical glaucoma program will use a pig model to assess the protective effects of EmtinB, since the optic nerve structure in pigs is very similar to that in humans.
The study will aim to demonstrate that EmtinB can effectively protect the astrocytes in the optic nerve and retinal ganglion cells from damage associated with elevated intraocular pressure.
“Our company is on the cusp of developing a new innovative treatment that will have the potential to address concerns with patient compliance, to increase efficacy and to potentially preserve sight for glaucoma patients,” NeuroScientific chief executive officer Matthew Liddelow said.
Efficacy data from this next study is expected to be available by the end of the year.