Nearly $650k awarded to advance potential remyelination drug IFB-048

Therapy is designed after a blood pressure medicine to activate ISR pathway

Marisa Wexler, MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has awarded Inflectis BioScience a grant valued at $649,601 to advance the preclinical development of IFB-048, the company’s experimental treatment to promote myelin repair in multiple sclerosis (MS).

“This grant along with the support from the Society are a testimony to the potential of IFB-048 in multiple sclerosis,” Pierre Miniou, PhD, CEO of Inflectis, said in a company press release.

In MS, inflammation in the brain and spinal cord damages the myelin sheath, a fatty covering that wraps around nerve fibers and helps them send electrical signals, sort of like rubber insulation wrapped around a copper wire. Myelin damage results in nerve signaling dysfunction, which gives rise to the symptoms of MS.

There are more than 20 approved MS treatments, but all of them reduce inflammation. No therapy has ever been proven to actually promote the repair of damaged myelin, called remyelination. Finding new treatments that can promote remyelination is a major goal of modern MS research and the aim of this new project.

Miniou called it “an opportunity to speed up the development of a promising drug candidate, which could constitute a paradigm shift for the benefit of people with MS.”

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Potential for myelin repair

The project, which will be led by Brian Popko, PhD, a professor at Northwestern University, will test whether IFB-048 can help promote remyelination in MS mouse models. Researchers will evaluate if IFB-048 can protect nerve cells and/or oligodendrocytes, which are the brain cells mainly responsible for producing myelin. The experimental therapy’s distribution throughout the nervous system and metabolic properties also will be evaluated.

“We look forward to the results of these experiments, and hope that IFB-048 continues to show promise for promoting myelin repair and stopping MS progression in its tracks,” said Walter Kostich, PhD, associate vice president of translational research at the National MS Society.

IFB-048 is designed to activate a molecular signaling pathway called the integrated stress response, or ISR. Popko said guanabenz, an approved treatment to lower blood pressure that’s able to activate the ISR, has shown promising results in MS studies. IFB-048 was designed as a derivative of guanabenz, the aim being to maximize the drug’s ability to activate the ISR while minimizing its impact on blood pressure, which may cause unwanted side effects.

“In animal models of MS, we confirmed that another guanabenz-related compound, IFB-088, was able to protect oligodendrocytes and myelin against the inflammatory environment,” Popko said.