Flex Pharma Shifts Focus to Programs Targeting MS, Other Neurological Diseases
Flex Pharma said it plans to prioritize developing its clinical programs in neurological diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and peripheral neuropathies like Charcot-Marie Tooth (CMT).
One or two proof-of-concept, Phase 2 clinical trials are planned for this year in the United States to evaluate Flex Pharma’s transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channel activator, FLX-787. The drug is capable of interfering with TRPV1 and TRPA1 receptors involved in pain and neurogenic inflammation, the company reported.
“In 2017, we expect to have multiple Phase 2 studies ongoing with our single agent candidate, FLX-787, with results from our MS study towards the end of the year,” Thomas Wessel, MD, PhD, Flex Pharma’s chief medical officer, said in a press release.
The company enrolled a group of MS and ALS patients last year in two exploratory Phase 2 studies in Australia. The randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over studies were designed to assess FLX-787’s safety and effectiveness in patients with cramps and spasticity linked to their disease. Results from the MS study are expected this year.
“By prioritizing our clinical programs to severe neurological diseases ahead of nocturnal leg cramps, we can focus on those patients with the greatest unmet need and accelerate our research efforts for cramps and spasticity,” Wessel said.
Spasticity refers to feelings of stiffness and involuntary muscle spasms. It is one of the most common symptoms of MS, and it can vary from mild discomfort to severe, painful, uncontrollable spasms, usually in the legs. Spasticity can be aggravated by sudden movements, temperature changes, infections, or tight clothing. Left untreated, it can lead to serious complications, including contractures (frozen or immobilized joints) and pressure sores.
“We believe that topical Chemical Neuro Stimulation, the process whereby small molecules activate TRP ion channels on sensory nerves in the oral mucosa, triggers a reflex response to inhibit the hyper excitable motor neurons in the spinal cord and reduce muscle cramps,” said Rod MacKinnon, MD, Flex Pharma co-founder and a Nobel Prize winner. “Our approach has a broad range of applications that we believe will ultimately benefit the millions of people that suffer from frequent painful muscle cramps.”