“More than 240 million surgeries are performed worldwide each year, yet there is no approved product on the market to prevent the dermal scarring that can frequently occur,” writes Jennifer Boggs, managing editor of BioWorld Today in her cover story on ScarX Therapeutics.
The article, “ScarX Finds New Uses for Old Drug in Dermal Scarring,” appeared in the New Co section and focuses on the MaRS Innovation-Hospital for Sick Children start-up company.
Here’s an excerpt:
“ScarX Therapeutics, a 2012 Toronto-based start-up, is looking to introduce a topical anti-scarring product onto the market — a product that can be administered by the patient — to prevent scarring following surgical procedures.
The company’s lead product, MI-001 , stems from discoveries made by Benjamin Alman, a senior scientist and head of orthopedic surgery at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, that confirmed the role of beta-catenin in scar formation, said CEO Stephen Whitehead.
Beta-catenin is activated during instances of acute injury; the levels of beta-catenin in fibroblasts rise rapidly and then usually drop off quickly. In cases of hypertrophic scarring, however, “the elevated levels are maintained,” he told BioWorld Today.
Alman’s research led him to screen compounds from a library of active pharmaceutical ingredients. Testing compounds against human fibroblasts isolated from hypotrophic scars, he identified a compound that could target beta-catenin synthesis inhibition. That compound, nefopam, had long been used as a intravenous and oral non-opioid analgesic, and has significant safety data already behind it.
“So this is really a repurposing story, too,” Whitehead said.
When formulated into a topical cream, MI-001 was able to promote healthy tissue healing and significantly reduce scarring in preclinical in vitro and in vivo studies. ScarX, a spinout of the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, has been advancing toward clinical studies, expected to begin this year.
The company recently received a $250,000 investment from the Ontario Centres of Excellence to support development of M0-001 , but to date most of its backing has come from MaRS Innovation, a government-sponsored organization created in 2008 aimed at supporting and nurturing research emerging from universities and research institutions in Ontario. The goal of MaRS [Innovation] is to fill the gap between early-stage technologies and start-up companies.
MaRS [Innovation] has been instrumental in providing both financial and back-office support as ScarX moves toward the clinic, Whitehead noted.
The firm pulled in seed funding of about $500,000. The nature and potential size of the scarring trials to test MI-001 should be manageable for a small, virtual firm. But ScarX anticipates seeking a partner at some point; the anti-scarring market offers a large opportunity — more than $4 billion in the U.S. alone — so bringing a big pharma partner on board will be a must, Whitehead said.
The complete article is available on BioWorld Today for subscribers.
Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, marketing and communications manager.