For hundreds of thousands of people struggling to cope with braindisorders such as schizophrenia, the neuroleptic drugs they take cancause problems as debilitating as the underlying disease.

Tardive dyskinesia is one drug-induced side effect that results inpermanent damage and has been selected as the first target in acollaborative research and development agreement (CRADA)announced today between Neuromedica Inc., of Cambridge, Mass.,and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda,Md.

Nigel Webb, Neuromedica's president and CEO, said the three-yearagreement will focus on research involving his company's brainaccess technology, a drug delivery system developed at HarvardUniversity, and therapeutic compounds identified by Neuromedicaand NIMH.

Webb said the agreement with NIMH is the largest collaboration forhis two-year old privately held firm. The CRADA, an NIMHspokesman said, is worth $192,000 over three years.

"This will help us accelerate our preclinical and clinicaldevelopment," Webb said. Initial studies will test use of the brainaccess technology system in the delivery of a Neuromedica-developed compound, called Doprexin, for treatment of tardivedyskinesia, which affects about 600,000 people in the U.S.

The permanent disorder, Webb said, is caused by prolonged-use ofneuroleptic drugs and results in uncontrollable bodily movementsand reduced intellectual capacity.

"We're targeting tardive dyskinesia first because in animal studiesDoprexin relieves symptoms in five to 10 minutes and produces clearexternal measures," Webb said. "In humans, we would expect a shorttrial period." Clinical studies, he observed, may begin within a year.

Brain access technology, Webb said, is based on the use of naturalmolecules, which are fatty acids, to carry drugs across the blood-brain barrier and delivery therapeutics to specific receptors.

"Once inside the brain," he explained, "the bond between the carrierand drug is hydrolyzed and the drug is released to target a particularreceptor while the carrier molecule is metabolized."

Webb said Doprexin is a conjugate of the neurotransmitter dopaminecombined with the brain access technology carrier docosahexaenoicacid. In addition to being tested as a treatment for tardive dyskinesia,the compound also may be tested as an appetite suppressant.

Brain access technology, according to Webb, is different from otherdrug delivery systems in that it doesn't "make holes" in the blood-brain barrier and promotes high drug uptake. n

-- Charles Craig

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.