NeuroSearch A/S spun off a new biopharmaceutical firm, Poseidon Pharmaceuticals A/S, to continue development of existing programs in lung disease, allergy and immunosuppression. This marks the Ballerup, Denmark-based company¿s fourth spin-off in the past two years, and continues its strategy of creating new entities to progress activities outside its core focus of drug development for diseases of the central nervous system.

Understanding the structure and function of ion channels ¿ cell membrane proteins that mediate external signals by transporting ions across an electrical gradient ¿ is a core competence within NeuroSearch. Its biopharmaceutical drug discovery efforts are based around finding modulators that block or activate ion channel targets associated with CNS diseases. It has four candidates in Phase II clinical trials, including drugs for depression, Alzheimer¿s and Parkinson¿s disease, cocaine addiction, and anxiety. A fifth candidate is undergoing Phase I studies for treatment of brain damage after stroke.

NeuroSearch has established academic collaborations in several areas outside the CNS sphere, which also exploit its ion channel platform technology. Building new companies around these programs offers a better return than partnering them out at an early stage, NeuroSearch President and CEO Jorgen Buus Lassen told BioWorld International. It¿s ¿a way where we can share some part of the potential upside,¿ he said.

Its portfolio of subsidiaries already includes Sophion Bioscience A/S, which is developing automated screening technology for ion channel modulators, gene and cell therapy firm NsGene A/S, and genomics specialist Azign Bioscience A/S.

Poseidon Pharmaceuticals is partly based on a collaboration with Maria Belvisi, who heads up the respiratory pharmacology group within the National Heart & Lung Institute at Imperial College, London. Belvisi has become chief scientific officer of the new company. Its president and CEO is Sxren Peter Olesen, professor of medical physiology at the University of Copenhagen and director of ion channel physiology at NeuroSearch.

The company¿s lead program is based on a small- molecule drug candidate, called Respion, which it is developing for treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The condition arises from prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke or other noxious agents.

Respion and related leads have exhibited promising activity in animal models, according to Olesen, inhibiting major symptoms such as cough, mucus accumulation in the lungs and airway constriction.

The immunosuppression program, which is based on a collaboration with Danish firm Pharmexa A/S, of Hxrsholm, is based on an observation that specific ion channel blockers also suppress T-cell activation.

The allergy program, which is based around the inhibition of histamine release from mast cells, is at an earlier stage of development.

Poseidon was formally established earlier this month and remains a wholly owned subsidiary of NeuroSearch. The company is currently using its parent¿s resources, but is considering its funding options.